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February 20, 2011

Nankivil shines in home win

MADISON -- Keaton Nankivil didn't make it to the postgame press conference Sunday night because he was getting treatment in the trainer's room. It was just about the only thing that went wrong for him on the night.

On the Badgers' third possession Sunday night, Nankivil found himself open on the perimeter. Teammate Jon Leuer did as well, feeding him a pass which Nankivil caught in rhythm before knocking down the open 3-pointer.

And if Nankivil hits his first shot attempt of the night, watch out.

It took all of two minutes, 12 seconds for Nankivil to score in Wisconsin's 76-66 victory over Penn State. It would take until the 15:43 mark in the second half before he missed.

"We gave him open shots," said Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis. "That's not really what you want to do with him because he's a very good perimeter shooter. Maybe their best."

Nankivil finished 8-for-9 on the night from the floor, including a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range. The only blemishes on his stat line were that missed jumper in the second half and a missed free throw with 4:44 to play in the game.

Matching Leuer with a team-high 22 points, Nankivil showed exactly how dangerous he could be with a little confidence and space to shoot.

"When he gets in a rhythm, he's as good a shooter as anybody in the country," Leuer said. "He got into a rhythm tonight and we knew (to) just get him the ball."

Nankivil also demonstrated once again that having a third scorer makes all the difference for Wisconsin. In fact, the Badgers had four players in double digits, but with reigning Big Ten player of the week Jordan Taylor having an off night, Nankivil's hot shooting came at the perfect time.

What he also showed - though it may have more to do with Nankivil's reserved demeanor and inconsistent play from game-to-game - was an argument for why he ought to play a larger role in the Badgers offense. As long as he continues to shoot a high percentage, Nankivil ought to shoot 10 times a game with at least half of those beyond the 3-point arc.

He doesn't have the size or dominant post presence of teammate and fellow senior forward Leuer. Nor does he possess the shot-creating and floor general skills of junior guard Jordan Taylor.

He'll never receive the kind of national attention or praise that Leuer and Taylor have gotten throughout this season, either. No, that's just not the kind of player he is.

But Nankivil does possess something unmatched by either Leuer or Taylor. He is the Badgers' best pure shooter.

From 3-point range, Nankivil has shot 50 percent on 70 attempts in conference games. He's slightly less successful overall, but still the Badgers' best from long range, connecting on 45-of-94 attempts on the year from beyond the 3-point arc.

Nankivil matched a season high with five 3-pointers in the game, two shy of his career best, which is tied for a UW record for most threes in a game. With his performance against Penn State, he also improved his career 3-point percentage to .424, which ties Nankivil for fifth all-time at Wisconsin.

Moving inside the perimeter, Nankivil's career field goal percentage of .492 ranks 10th all-time at UW. Nankivil scored in double figures for the 13th time in the Badgers' last 17 games, improving his scoring average to 9.77 points per contest and 11.64 point per game in Big Ten play.

"He's an opportunistic young man," said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. "He's a guy that knows how to plant his feet and stare it down. He can extend defenses, and he's always been like that."


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