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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Wolverine hunting

\Judgment week"" has arrived in men's college basketball and the UW team is staring down a daunting challenge. The Badgers (9-4 Big Ten, 19-6 overall) play host to the Michigan Wolverines (9-3, 16-9) at the Kohl Center tonight. 




This is no ordinary game for Wisconsin. A victory would allow them to reclaim the top spot in the Big Ten and would all but secure a bid in the NCAA Tournament. 




The Badgers return to Madison after a two-game road trip that included a 58-57 loss at Penn State last Wednesday and a 61-53 win over Iowa on Saturday. 




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The Wolverines, led by freshman guard Daniel Horton, bring to the Kohl Center a strong offensive attack. Horton, the current Big Ten Player of the Week, scored a career-high 31 points in Michigan's 78-67 victory over Purdue.  




""He's long, he's quick, he can score from the outside, he can take it to the rack,"" UW Head Coach Bo Ryan said of Horton. ""When you have a guy with his kind of talent, you can at least be assured of always having a chance."" 




The Badgers also need be wary of the three-point threat Horton and his teammates pose. In the last meeting of these two teams, a 66-65 Wisconsin loss in Ann Arbor, Wolverine shooting from beyond the arc put the nail in the Badger coffin. Horton, along with senior guard LaVell Blanchard combined for nine three-pointers, six of which came in the last five minutes.  




""When they're hitting the three, they're very difficult to beat,"" Ryan said. ""When you can hit that number of threes in a short period of time, that changes the game."" 




The Wolverines are first in the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage during conference games. 




Countering the potent Wolverine attack is a super-charged Badger offense. Three Wisconsin players are among the top 20 scorers in the Big Ten Conference. Senior guard Kirk Penney leads the team in scoring with an average of 16.5 points per game. Sophomore guard Devin Harris and freshman forward Alando Tucker are also averaging in double digits. 




Also playing a key role in tonight's game will be junior forward Mike Wilkinson. Wilkinson emerged as a major offensive factor in Saturday's victory at Iowa when he posted a career-high 20 points. 




One area of concern for the Badgers is a lack of contribution from non-starters. Wisconsin's starting five play almost 80 percent of the team's total minutes and provide for almost 90 percent of the team's scoring.  




After tonight's game, UW's schedule shows no mercy. Saturday sends the Badgers to Minnesota to face the fourth-in-conference Golden Gophers while next Wednesday brings the third place Illinois Fighting Illini to Madison for the last game before tournament play. 




Though the tournament is looming, the Badgers have not removed themselves from the goal of winning a Big Ten Championship. 




""We're in the race,"" Ryan said. ""That's all we ever asked for is a chance."" 




With that chance being presented to them, the players do not need any extra incentives to play hard. 




""There's no problem staying motivated now,"" Wilkinson said. ""It's the end of the season,?? conference title is up for grabs ... if you're not motivated to play at this time of year, there not much else that can motivate you.\

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