Badgers look to end losing streak against GophersWisconsin and Minnesota play at 6 p.m. today on ESPN2
By: By Rob Schultz, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Jon Leuer made it clear the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's three-game losing streak against Minnesota isn't more frustrating because the Gophers are his home-state team.
"Any time you lose to a team, you didn't get it done, that's basically what it says," Leuer said as the Badgers (10-2) prepared for Tuesday's Big Ten Conference opener against 14th-ranked Minnesota (11-1) at the Kohl Center.
"Regardless of who you're playing -- even if you lose to your buddies in the driveway -- you're going to feel the same frustration that the guys on this team feel," said Leuer, who is from Orono, Minn.
The Badgers haven't gotten it done against the Gophers because they have not shot well. They have shot just 34.1 percent overall and 28.8 percent from 3-point range while facing mostly zone defenses during the losing streak. Nearly half of the Badgers' shots have been 3-pointers.
They were worst during a 68-52 loss at Williams Arena last February that saw Minnesota outscore the Badgers 22-6 in the paint and shoot 21 more free throws.
"Last year they pretty much manhandled us," UW assistant coach Gary Close said of the only meeting between the teams last season. "It was probably our least competitive game of the Big Ten season."
The teams' styles aren't significantly different this season but there are some key changes in personnel beyond graduated players such as Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon and Lawrence Westbrook.
The loss at Minnesota last season was Leuer's first game back after missing nine games with a broken bone in his wrist. He goes into this Big Ten season tied for third in scoring with a 19.8 average.
For Minnesota, senior guard Al Nolen is expected to play after missing five games with a stress fracture in his foot. He missed last season's game because of academic difficulties that sidelined him for the second semester.
The Gophers also will have junior forward Trevor Mbakwe, a former Marquette player, patrolling the paint. He is the Big Ten's second-leading rebounder and, along with 6-11 junior Ralph Sampson and 6-10 junior Colton Iverson, form one of the conference's most formidable front lines. They lead the Big Ten in blocks.
"They hurt us posting up a little bit with their bigs last year and now they've got another one. And (Mbakwe) is probably better than any of them in terms of posting up," Close said.
Close called Mbakwe "as good a rebounder as I've seen in awhile. ... He gets rebounds above the rim. He has great hands, he's a two-handed rebounder, he has great jumping ability and he goes."
The Badgers felt they got good looks last season against the Gophers, who did not need to employ the full-court pressure that has helped them lead the Big Ten in steals this year.
"We just have to do a better job as guards of getting in the middle of the zone and touching Jon or Keaton (Nankivil) or Jared (Berggren) or whoever is inside and making decisions from there," UW junior guard Jordan Taylor said.
"If we're taking long jump shots, we have to make sure they are good shots off kickouts and not forcing anything," Taylor said. "We have to let the game come to us and get good shots and stay within ourselves."
Added Leuer: "They pose a lot of different problems for us but we feel like we're preparing the right way. We're feeling pretty confident for this one."
-- Copyright (c) 2010, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services