Wisconsin coach Greg Gard remains optimistic despite a subpar performance by No. 16 Wisconsin in its 71-56 loss to No. 4 North Carolina.
The Badgers won two of three games in the Maui Invitational last week in Lahaina, Hawaii, but the Tar Heels' setback on Nov. 24 had an impact. Wisconsin beat Tennessee and Georgetown but lost to North Carolina in the tournament title game.
“I think we're better defensively,” said Gard to the Wisconsin State Journal. “I think we're starting to figure out some things and starting to callous a little bit. Teams always have to go through some adversity a little bit and have some negative things happen. And I think that toughens us.”
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A long week begins on Sunday for the Badgers (4-2), who host Prairie View A&M (2-4) at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. The game is the first of three games in six days for Wisconsin.
The Badgers let North Carolina to shoot 60.7 percent in the second half, including 20 points in the paint, and likely need to rip a page from the Tar Heels' playbook by attacking the rim more often. Wisconsin scored a season-low 56 points against North Carolina and its top three players — senior forward Nigel Hayes, senior guard Bronson Koenig and sophomore F Ethan Happ — shot 10-of-36 from the field.
Hayes was 1-of-11 from 3-point range in the last two games of the invitational and 1-of-7 against the Tar Heels. He's averaging 10.7 points and a team-leading 2.7 assists per game.
Koenig is the team's scoring leader at 15 points while Happ contributes11.9 points and 8.8 rebounds.
The game at Wisconsin is the first of a seven-game road trip for the Prairie View (Texas) A&M, which will also travel to Houston, Kansas State and Utah.
Byron Smith took over as interim head coach when Byron Rimm II stepped down as head coach last season. The Panthers finished 6-6 under the direction of Smith, who had the interim tag stripped from his title in March. The team finished sixth in the 10-team Southwest Athletic Conference during the 2015-16 season.
Junior F Zachary Hamilton scored a career-high 29 points, including 7-of-13 shooting from 3-point range in Prairie View A&M's eight-point loss to Lamar two days ago. Hamilton leads the team in scoring at 13.8 points.
Senior G Daquan Cook, a transfer from UNLV, averages 12.8 points.
Smith said he likes the Panthers' enthusiasm and effort so far this season. He brought in six junior college and transfer players who add length and are solid athletes.
“We recruited very, very hard and brought in bodies; guys that we could move around more and assume some of the responsibilities offensively that we lacked last year,” said Smith, who was a Panthers assistant for three seasons.