November 11, 2009

UW looking for opportunities to run the floor

MADISON - It only took two words for senior guard Jason Bohannon to get his point across when asked if he liked to run the ball and push the tempo in games.

"I do," he said.

But for the most part during his career, his team has been a model for exactly the opposite. Under Bo Ryan, a disciple of disciplined and fundamental basketball, the Badgers have been a team more focused on running their offensive set instead of pushing the tempo.

This season, though, as UW prepares for it's final exhibition tune up against UW-Superior tonight at the Kohl Center, there might be a shift in the pace of Badger games.

"Coach Ryan always says he never keeps us from running as long as we do the other stuff right," UW junior big man Keaton Nankivil said. "I think this year, just in practice, we've gotten the sense from him that a little up-tempo is not a bad thing right now.

"Shot selection is a little more open."

And that can likely be attributed to the talent the Badgers are putting on the floor this season. With two senior guards in Trevon Hughes and Bohannon, experience is not an issue. Because they have combined to start in over 100 games, they have no problem understanding the offense and have earned the trust in the coaches.

When you throw in the wing players like Ryan Evans, Tim Jarmusz, Rob Wilson and bigs like Jon Leuer and Nankivil, the Badgers have a stable of players that are able to run the floor and create things in transition.

"It's not any different than usual," Bohannon said. "But I think we've got the skilled players to do so this year. We got a lot of guys that can get out and run and know what to do with it. If you have a guy like Jon that's 6-foot-10 that can get out and beat a lot of guys down the floor, you've got to take advantage of it."

Even though it was only one exhibition game against a lower division opponent, the Badgers were able to run the floor effectively against Bemidji State during last week's game.

By the end, UW had scored 24 points off turnovers, 14 of which came via the fast break.

"I think everybody wants to do it because you can get those easy buckets," Leuer said. "Depending on the team you're playing, defensively and in transition, you're not always able to get those. If we're able to get those, we're always looking to push the ball and we've got the guards that can do it."

Last season, the Badgers lost six-games in a row for the first time under Ryan. A lot of those games came down to the wire and were eventually decided by a single-digit margin.

Though there are a number of things that went wrong in those games, one that stood out was a lack of fast-break points and points off turnovers. In those games, it was the other team capitalizing on the very thing the Badgers were hoping to do.

So, maybe this time around UW will be able to catch some of those same opponents off guard by becoming a more up-tempo style offense.

"Anytime you catch guys off guard or surprise them with those easy buckets, it's going to help you out in the long run," Bohannon said. "Four, six, eight points off easy buckets, that's the difference in a lot of ball games. That six-game losing streak last year we had two or three point games a lot of times.

"Maybe if we can get six, seven or eight points off those easy opportunities, we could turn the difference in the game."

Look, the Badgers still remain a team focused on fundamentals and disciplined basketball. They will take a good shot over a quick shot seven days out of the week. They create opportunities with their scrappy defense and force teams to adjust to their style of play.

But maybe this year, a little bit more can come from a team expected to do less by pushing the ball and running the floor.

"We're not an ACC up and down team," Nankivil said. "But maybe (we're) more than what people around here are used to seeing with coach Ryan and especially coach (Dick) Bennett. We're going to try to pick out spots, but I think with the athletes we put on the floor at all five positions we're going to try to take our opportunities and look up the floor a little bit."

UW- UW-Superior Pre-Game Info:

-Date: Wednesday, Nov. 11
-Location: Kohl Center
-Radio: Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay &Mike Lucas)
-All-Time Series: UW leads 1-0
-Last Meeting: UW won 27-9 on March 7, 1903

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