MADISON, Wis. — Given Bo Ryan’s dry sense of humor, it’s hard to detect his level of seriousness about the offers he has received to help his team’s dreadful shooting performance the past week.
But Wisconsin’s basketball coach at least intimated he’d collected several emails from fans with requests to bring in a sports psychologist — “people that can do these mind things with players,” as Ryan put it.
No one would fault Ryan for giving it a try.
Over the past two games, Wisconsin has averaged just 45.5 points. Yet thanks to the team’s stellar defense, the Badgers managed to escape with a split in home games against Michigan State and Minnesota.
Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.
Wisconsin had won 56 consecutive games under Ryan at home when allowing fewer than 50 points. Then came an abysmal outing Tuesday night in which Michigan State made off with a 49-47 victory to snap the Badgers’ streak. On Saturday, Wisconsin needed a late jumper from point guard Traevon Jackson to eek out a 45-44 victory against Minnesota.
In those two games, Wisconsin shot 33 for 100 from the field — exactly 33.0 percent.
To put those performances into perspective, consider that Northern Illinois, the worst shooting team in the country among 345 Division I teams, is hitting 35.6 percent of its field goal attempts this season. That’s the same Northern Illinois team that scored four points in the first half against Eastern Michigan on Saturday while breaking the NCAA record for lowest field goal percentage in a half (1 for 31).
“What are you gonna do?” Ryan said during his weekly Monday news conference. “You’ve got to stay sane. And you’ve got to keep encouraging your players.”
Following Wisconsin’s victory against Minnesota, Ryan cracked that the university was saving money because the basketball nets lasted 10 years rather than one or two at other programs since they hardly moved.
“When I was walking out, (athletic director) Barry (Alvarez) did say that he found some funds, some extra funds, in case we wanted to burn a few nets,” Ryan said Monday. “I didn’t know if he meant just burn the ones that we weren’t hitting on.”
This season, the Badgers rank eighth in the country in scoring defense, allowing 54.9 points per game — a big reason Wisconsin (14-6, 5-2 in the Big Ten) remains in contention for a top spot in the conference as it prepares to face No. 11 Ohio State (15-4, 5-2) at 6 p.m. CT Tuesday at Value City Arena.
The Badgers rank 175th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 67.8 points per game.
“Defensively, we’ve got to stay as solid as we can be because I don’t think there’s any team when they do their scouting report that shudders and shakes when they look at us offensively,” Ryan said. “I don’t think we’re intimidating anybody.”
As for whether Ryan will take anyone up on an email offer for shooting help? That decision remains to be seen.
“No,” he said, pausing for five seconds. “Not yet.”
Gasser update: Ryan said Badgers point guard Josh Gasser has tried to remain positive despite suffering a season-ending ACL tear on Oct. 27. Gasser, a 6-foot-3 junior, was slated to slide over from the wing and become Wisconsin’s starting point guard before the season began.
“When you’re a competitor like him and you’re watching guys out there on the court in practice and in games, it’s hard,” Ryan said. “But he’s not the first guy and he won’t be the last that has to deal with a season-ending injury. He’ll say some things to the players. He’s not one of those guys who stands there and barks things out. He knows there’s another guy out there that does that.”
During his first two seasons, Gasser appeared in 70 games with 66 starts. He averaged 7.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game as a sophomore. He also ranks fifth in Wisconsin history with a 1.95 assists-to-turnovers ratio.
Gasser is using his redshirt season and will have two more years of eligibility remaining.
“He’s a quiet voice in the background type of guy,” Ryan said. “But his presence, especially the guys that have played with him, they know how tough he is. They know what he was doing this summer. They know what he was doing in the fall. So there’s not too many guys that have had the respect that Josh Gasser’s had.”