Wisconsin needed a strong defensive display to clinch its
best start in 20 seasons.
A similar effort may be needed against high-scoring West
The No. 10 Badgers go for an eighth straight win Wednesday
night, when they meet the Mountaineers for the first time in 30 years in the
finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Wisconsin (7-0) held Saint Louis to 32.8 percent from the
field – 4 for 15 from 3-point range – in a 63-57 victory in the opening round
of the tournament Tuesday. It was a rugged display typical of the Badgers under
coach Bo Ryan.
“The upper classmen have done a great job of passing on
the system so to speak,” said Ryan, who was hired prior to 2001-02.
Despite the staunch defensive effort, the Badgers are
finding success this season behind some surprising offensive production.
They’re averaging 77.7 points after finishing each of the previous six seasons
with an average no higher than 67.9.
The Badgers’ impressive production – including shooting 44.1
percent from long range – is a big reason why they’re off to their best start
to a season since opening 11-0 in 1993-94.
Moving closer to that mark likely will require another
strong defensive performance since West Virginia (5-1) is averaging 87.0 points
while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 43.4 from 3-point range.
The Mountaineers dominated Old Dominion with another
tremendous shooting display Tuesday, connecting on 56.0 percent of their field
goals while leading by as many as 25 in a 78-60 victory. However, they were
outrebounded 35-28 while extending their winning streak to four games.
“Just think what we could do if we could get a
defensive rebound,” coach Bob Huggins said. “We keep giving up a
dozen or more and we’re not going to be able to keep doing that. We can do that
and make some shots and win, but we can’t keep doing that against good people.
That’s what we continue to harp on them.”
Wisconsin has won the battle on the glass in five of seven
games this season, including 40-37 against the Billikens.
Traevon Jackson may also be a factor again after matching a
career high with 16 points and grabbing six boards Tuesday. The junior guard is
averaging 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, while Frank Kaminsky has a team-leading
16.6 points with 5.4 boards.
Kaminsky was limited to 12 points with eight rebounds and
four blocks against Saint Louis after scoring 21 in a 76-67 win over Oral
Roberts three days earlier.
The Mountaineers are likely to continue leaning on Eron
Harris, the team leader with 20.2 points per game while sinking 17 of 34 from
behind the arc. The sophomore guard has scored 19 points in each of the last
two games, connecting on 14 of 25 from the field, including 6 of 11 from long range.
Point guard Juwan Staten had 13 points and tied a season
high with nine assists against Old Dominion. He has 47 assists and five
turnovers in six games.
Wisconsin has won two of three meetings with West Virginia,
but the teams haven’t met since 1973.