NCAA BK

Wisconsin-BYU Preview

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Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser has made big strides in his sophomore season.

Gasser will look to help the 11th-ranked Badgers start 6-0 for the first time in 15 years when they take on BYU in the championship game of the Chicago Invitational Challenge on Saturday night in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Wisconsin (5-0) is off to its best start since 2007-08 after defeating Bradley 66-43 on Friday night. Gasser, Jordan Taylor and Ryan Evans each scored 15 points and the Badgers recorded 18 points off turnovers while holding the Braves to 34.0 percent shooting.

"Overall we played pretty well," Gasser said. "We moved the ball well, we got good shots, we knocked them down when we needed too. And defensively we were solid all night. We weren't great, but we were good enough."

It was another sharp defensive night for Wisconsin, which is giving up 35.8 points per game and limiting opponents to 27.9 percent shooting. The Badgers aren't likely to sustain those numbers next week as its schedule is about to get far tougher with upcoming games against No. 1 North Carolina and No. 16 Marquette.

While stifling defense has long been a Wisconsin hallmark under coach Bo Ryan, this season's team also features some offensive punch.

Gasser has emerged as a top outside threat. The sophomore guard made three of his four 3-point attempts to improve to 14 of 17 from beyond the arc this season. After averaging 5.9 points and shooting 30.2 percent from 3-point range as a freshman, Gasser is scoring 11.6 points per game in 2011-12.

He's one reason why, despite losing two of its top three scorers from last season's 25-win team, Wisconsin is in position to start 6-0 for the first time since 1996-97.

Sophomore Ben Brust has also stepped up, averaging 11.2 points while making 12 of 27 3-point attempts.

However, the Badgers will now face a BYU team that's also skilled at hitting from long range. The Cougars (4-1) have made 35 3-pointers in their last three games, including an 8-of-18 effort in Friday's 76-55 semifinal win over Nevada.

Charles Abouo scored 22 points - hitting 4 of 5 3-point attempts - and Noah Hartsock added 21 for BYU, which shot 54.4 percent overall and never looked back after a 16-0 run in the first half.

Freshman guard Anson Winder made his first career start against Nevada and finished with nine points, four assists and four steals. BYU has used three different starting lineups in the quest to combat its slow starts. The Cougars have had a lead of more than nine points at the break only once.

"You get a few guys that are inexperienced and haven't played much on the road," coach Dave Rose said. "I really felt like we had a couple guys really bail us out. Noah did a great job and Charles too. That can help other guys relax."

Wisconsin defeated BYU in 32-16 in 1931, the only previous meeting between the schools.

Tagged: Wisconsin, Brigham Young, Josh Gasser

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