Coming off the heels of two straight losses to top 20 teams Wisconsin continues it's in state swing by welcoming Green Bay to the Kohl Center tonight. This game couldn't be more important to these teams as the Badgers look to right the ship and return to winning ways, while Green Bay looks to build off the confidence of wins in it's opening conference games.
Green Bay (4-4, 2-0 Horizon League) is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum of Wisconsin right now, coming in on a two game winning streak. They took their first two league games over this last week with a 71-68 win over UIC and a 57-47 win over Loyola, both at home. Green Bay is currently in the midst of a 3 game non-conference road stretch that saw them play at Virginia, today's game at Wisconsin, and then once again on the road to Marquette on Saturday.
C - Alec Brown (13.8ppg, 7.5rpg)
F - Daniel Turner (3.6ppg, 5rpg)
F - Jarvis Williams (5.1ppg, 2.6.rpg)
G - Steve Baker (8.5ppg, 3.1rpg)
G - Kiefer Sykes (5.9ppg, 2.6rpg)
F - Jared Berggren (12ppg, 5.4rpg)
F - Mike Bruesewitz (6.6ppg, 5rpg)
F - Ryan Evans (9.4ppg, 6.5rpg)
G - Josh Gasser (8.5ppg, 4.1rpg)
G - Jordan Taylor (12.1ppg, 4.9rpg)
These teams are meeting for the 18th time tonight with Wisconsin holding a 16-1 all-time record against the Phoenix. They are a perfect 14-0 at home and suffered their only loss at Green Bay in 2009. Last season the Badgers took down Green Bay 70-56 at the Kohl Center.
As I said before these teams are coming off of opposite weeks, however against much different opponents. Green Bay took down two of the worst teams in the Horizon League at home while Wisconsin went winless against then #5 ranked UNC and #16 ranked Marquette.
Both teams come in with some issues, as Wisconsin has lost it's shooting touch as of late, especially from long distance. Last week the Badgers only shot 27.7% from 3 point range, but on the year have been pretty hot from behind the arc, hitting at a 42.4% clip for the year.
Leading the way for the Badgers are a trio of double digit scorers in starters Jordan Taylor (12.1ppg) and Jared Berggren (12ppg), along with key reserve guard Ben Brust, who's 11.9ppg average is tops amongst all non-starters in the Big Ten.
Brust and Josh Gasser have really been the catalysts behind the overall hot shooting from deep with Gasser hitting on 16 of his 25 attempts (64%) and Brust is 21 of 49 (42.9%), but both have cooled off as of late and will need to get going again against a very strong Green Bay defense.
Currently the Phoenix are holding opponents to 61 points a game and are only allowing them to shoot 35% behind the arc on the year.
The problem for Green Bay hasn't been their defense as much as a terribly cold offense at times. Outside of 7'1" center Alec Brown (13.8ppg), Green Bay doesn't boast another scorer in double figures, with the next leading scorer being guard Steve Baker at 8.5ppg. For the year this team is shooting a horrible 39.8% on Field Goals and an even worse 28% from 3 point range.
The clear key for Wisconsin to get back on track in this one is for them to stop Alec Brown down low and make the Phoenix a jump shooting team. It's easier said than done though as Brown is coming off a week in which he averaged 15.5ppg, 7.5rpg, and 2.5 blocks. His match up against Jared Berggren will be the key on both ends of the floor as both are much more athletic than people give them credit for.
Another group of players for Wisconsin to watch out for have to be Baker and forward Jarvis Williams. Baker is the best 3 point shooter Green Bay has and can get hot at times, currently hitting at a 52.2% clip (12 of 23), while Williams had his best game of the year last season against the Badgers overall and managed to grab a career best 10 rebounds in that contest.
In the end I see Wisconsin righting the ship and not looking past the Phoenix, as Ryan and Co. know Green Bay gives them everything they have every year. This game is always close for awhile as the Phoenix always come to play in this one. Tip-off is set for 7pm and you can find this game on ESPN3 or your watchESPN app for you mobile types.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Green Bay 60