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Friday, May 24, 2024
Tall Gophers could pose problems for Ryan, UW

mbball: Trevon Hughes and the Badgers will take on Minnesota Thursday.

Tall Gophers could pose problems for Ryan, UW

Head coach Bo Ryan addressed the media two days after Wisconsin's 83-55 win over Indiana, as his team now prepares for a road game against Minnesota Thursday.

The Badgers' win against the Hoosiers allowed them to keep pace with Michigan State and Ohio State, who both won this weekend. Now with a 9-4 Big Ten record (19-6 overall), No. 16 Wisconsin sits one game behind the league-leading Spartans and Buckeyes, and is one of five teams at the top of the conference separated by one game.

The Badgers began a stretch last Saturday that includes five out of six teams on their schedule with losing records, and that span continues against the 5-7 (14-10 overall) Golden Gophers.

Minnesota has lost three of its last four, and six of its last eight. The Gophers have not been the same since junior guard Al Nolen was indefinitely suspended before the team's Jan. 13 game against Michigan State.

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But Ryan believes the Gophers' height could create some issues for Wisconsin. The Badgers, without 6'10"" junior forward Jon Leuer, seemed to be bothered by Illinois' height advantage in last Tuesday's contest, and the Gophers could present a similar problem.

""Some of the things they can do with the passing lanes [can hurt us],"" Ryan said. ""Especially for us with our lineup, it can make a difference.""

Headlining Minnesota's height advantage is sophomore forward Ralph Sampson, who stands at 6'11"". The Gophers also start 6'7"" senior forward Damian Johnson, who could create matchup problems for Wisconsin's tallest starter, junior forward Keaton Nankivil, likely already guarding Sampson.

Minnesota's backcourt could also be an area of concern for the Badgers. Ryan mentioned senior guard Lawrence Westbrook, who leads the team with 13.4 points per game, as a player to watch out for. In addition, junior guard Blake Hoffarber has shown proficiency from long distance this season, shooting 49.3 percent from 3-point range.

""Shooting-wise there's a couple guys on that team you can't give a step to,"" Ryan said.

He also discussed the leadership role senior guard Jason Bohannon has exhibited. Bohannon has turned in some of his highest-scoring games of the season in the last several weeks, and now appears more vocal on the court.

However Ryan has seen the process develop since the beginning of the season.

""It doesn't start in January or February,"" Ryan said. ""It's all developed over a course of time.""

Bohannon has led by example of late, scoring 19, 18 and 15 points in three of his last four contests before exploding for 30 points against Indiana.

Some discussion also centered on Leuer as he continues to recover from his injury, and see more and more time on the court during practice.

Wisconsin would be excited to welcome back the team's leading scorer, but Ryan said even if Leuer is cleared to play in game-time action in the near future, Ryan still needs to see Leuer prove himself once again in practice before logging major minutes.

""I'll have to see him on the floor,"" Ryan said. ""It'll be tryouts again. If he gets back to practice he's going to have to try to get back into the lineup.""

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