After losing the top scorer from last year, many expected players like junior forward Jon Leuer to step forward and pick up the slack for Wisconsin. If Sunday night is any indication, Leuer is more than up to the task.
The Minnesota native netted 19 points as the Badgers rolled over IPFW in the Kohl Center 75-46 in both teams' regular-season opener. Wisconsin boasted a bigger, stronger lineup and took advantage of their size with Leuer leading the way.
""He did what we expected, and we didn't defend him the way we were supposed to,"" IPFW head coach Dane Fife said. ""We were supposed to front the post and try not to let Leuer catch it, but as you saw, he could catch it any time he wanted in the post.""
Leuer did most of his damage turning to hit jumpers from midrange and from the post over an IPFW defense that featured only a single player taller than 6'8"". To make matters worse, the visitors had at least three players recovering from an illness, and their best player, Deilvez Yearby, sit out for violating team rules.
Leuer said after the game that the bigs took it upon themselves to post up hard and drive home that advantage inside. Wisconsin finished with 28 points in the paint.
The Mastodons managed to stay within 10 points for much of the first half but could not manage a point for seven minutes at the end of the first and the start of the second half.
""Sometimes a team is just cold and they go through rough spots, like we all do,"" Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. ""I thought we handled the screens fairly well—good edge, good help, good use of what we call the fly trap. And we chased well. Other than the two 3s they hit at the very end, I thought we did a pretty good job on the outside shooting. They've got guys that can shoot.""
That run included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from senior guard Jason Bohannon set up by sophomore guard Jordan Taylor. After pulling down a rebound with five seconds to go in the half, Taylor pushed the ball up court and found Bohannon in the corner.
""He tried to get the ball down as quick as he could,"" Bohannon said. ""It looked like he was going up with the shot. He didn't quite have it there with two guys on him and tried to kick it to the corner quick, and I just tried to get it off right before the buzzer, as quick as I could. It happened to go in.""
One out-of-character development for Bohannon was that he rejected three shots, part of an 11-block day for Wisconsin. Ryan's teams usually favor playing position defense over going for blocks, but according to Ryan, most of them came from IPFW players driving aggressively and going right into the Badgers' interior defense.
""They were attacking the rim and they were trying to get to the free-throw line,"" Ryan said. ""Sometimes a player's going to get caught in an offensive position where he's got to try to get the shot off, and Jason just happened to be in the right spot ... He didn't over-commit.""
11 is the most shots blocked by a Badger team under Bo Ryan and the most since 2000.