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Saturday, March 02, 2024
UW looks to continue home court advantage
Wisconsin hands #4 Purdue their first loss of the season.

UW looks to continue home court advantage

After producing mixed results on the road last week and playing its first two games without injured junior forward Jon Leuer, No. 19 Wisconsin returns home for a two-game stretch, beginning tonight against Michigan.

The Badgers battled Northwestern last Wednesday for a hard-earned victory, then fell to Ohio State last Saturday as they trek on without their most valuable big man.

""We've done some good things and we've done some bad things [since Leuer's injury],"" junior forward Keaton Nankivil said. ""Obviously our results in the game reflect that with a win and a loss. It's going to be a work in progress because that's a big piece to lose.""

Many may look to Nankivil, now Wisconsin's only true starting big man, to pick up the slack from Leuer's absence. Without his fellow forward last week, Nankivil averaged 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

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""I know that I need to step my game up, but putting pressure on yourself really doesn't get you anywhere,"" Nankivil said. ""Adding that pressure to yourself sometimes complicates things.""

While Leuer's return remains far off in the distance, the Badgers can at least take comfort in the fact that they return to action in Madison tonight, where they have not lost once this season, a major reason they remain in the upper half of the conference standings.

""You're a little more comfortable [at home] and you got your own fans and things like that,"" assistant coach Gary Close said. ""We've done a good job playing at home, and that's important. If you're going to stay in the race you can't afford any bumps at all at home.""

Nankivil also looks forward to a couple of home games, especially with the players returning to classes this week.

""It's always nice to play at home, especially as tough as the conference is this year,"" Nankivil said ""Also the first week of school, to not be on the road makes a big difference.""

When Wisconsin takes the court at the Kohl Center tonight, it could be facing a confident Wolverine squad, with Michigan entering tonight's game on the heels of a win over then-No. 15 Connecticut.

The Wolverines (3-2 Big Ten, 10-7 overall) started the 2009-'10 season slowly, particularly losing their Big Ten opener to 8-9 Indiana.

Still, Michigan is a dangerous team on offense, and it starts with junior guard Manny Harris, who leads the Wolverines with 19.6 points per game.

""Manny Harris is maybe as good as a guard as there is in the country,"" Close said. Close added that fully containing Harris may be impossible, and the key is simply not to let him completely take over the game.

Harris possesses similar traits to Ohio State junior forward Evan Turner; a long, athletic player who can affect the game with his scoring, rebounding and passing ability. Wisconsin recognizes the resemblance, and is even using it as advantage when preparing for the Wolverines.

""Match-up wise we don't have to change anything at all,"" senior guard Jason Bohannon said.

Alongside Harris is another scoring threat, senior forward DeShawn Sims. Sims is second on the team, scoring 16.9 points per game, and grabs a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game.

""Sims in a terrific interior player with a lot of quickness,"" Close said.

Michigan may look to exploit Leuer's absence when the Wolverines have the ball by feeding the 6'8"" Sims the ball down low.

Against the Buckeyes, Wisconsin jacked up 26 3-point attempts, clearly getting away from an inside attack without Leuer. But The Badgers may look inside more against Michigan with the Wolverines tendency to play three or more guards.

""I feel like it's going to be a track meet, but we're going to have to slow them down and get the ball into the post more than we did against Ohio State,"" senior guard Trevon Hughes said.

The contest tips off at 7:30 p.m., and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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