Sunday, December 19, 2010

Front-loaded: Big men lead Badgers past Green Bay

With three wins in six days in their rearview mirror, the Badgers can look forward to a little time away from the court.

And, after a 70-56 win over Green Bay (4-7) to wrap up a sweep of its series against in-state rivals, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team (9-2) heads into a break for finals week riding a five-game win streak.

Wisconsin’s big men carried the load, with the starting frontcourt of sophomore Mike Bruesewitz, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil matching the Phoenix’s total scoring output with 56 points. The trio’s production came on the back of a combined 9-for-13 shooting performance from 3-point range.

Leuer led the way with 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while Bruesewitz tallied a career-high 18 points and Nankivil chipped in 16 – one point off his season-best total – to go with four blocks.

Combined with 10 points from point guard Jordan Taylor, the Badgers finished with four players in double-figure scoring for the second time this season.

“Any time we can get good production and get things going like Mike and Keaton did tonight, it’s just another dimension for our team,” Leuer said. “Multiple guys scoring in double figures, four tonight, that just puts pressure on the defense.

“You don’t know who to help off of, we shot the ball well tonight, and that opens up lanes for Jordan to drive. We’re a pretty dynamic team when we have all of these good parts working.”

As a team, UW shot a season-high 58.8 percent from 3-point range while Green Bay struggled to find its range and connected on just 4 of 15 attempts from distance.

“It’s an advantage when you shoot (3-pointers) with confidence, and you know that within the offense you can do that, but we obviously want points on the inside also,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “Sometimes it’s the way teams are playing you, you just have to keep probing and finding ways.”

The Phoenix led briefly midway through the first half, but the Badgers put together a 21-6 run that broke things open heading into the locker room. By holding Green Bay to eight points over the final 10:53 of the period, UW enjoyed a 12-point halftime lead at 33-21.

“We stepped up our energy on defense and you could feel that we were getting them to take tough shots,” Leuer said. “A lot of times, they were in late shot clock situations, so we made them force up some shots.”

Green Bay struck first out of the half and trimmed the lead to seven points, but after leading scorer Rahmon Fletcher picked up his third foul and headed to the bench, UW reassumed command.

In Fletcher’s absence, the Badgers went on a 7-2 run. That eventually ballooned into a 13-2 spurt once Fletcher returned, as Leuer knocked down back-to-back treys to push the Badgers’ lead to 18 points, at 46-28, just over seven minutes into the half.

Green Bay responded, but a dunk by Nankivil pushed the lead back to 18. He followed with a 3-pointer two possessions later to once again put the lead at 18, but the Phoenix wouldn’t fold.

Green Bay trimmed UW’s advantage to single digits three times in the last three minutes, but the Badgers answered from the free throw line.

Leuer, Nankivil and Taylor combined to go 8-for-8 at the charity stripe in the final minute to ice UW’s fifth sweep of its in-state Division I foes in 10 seasons under Ryan.

UW entered the night as the Big Ten’s top free-throw shooting team and, for the game, went 18-of-22 at the line (81.8 percent).

The Badgers have a nine-day break before closing out their non-conference season against Coppin State on Dec. 23 at the Kohl Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., with the game available on

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