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Three Players to Watch, Three Keys to UW Game

by Michael LoCicero

Three keys to Marquette-Wisconsin game

1. Control the tempo

This will likely be a near-impossible task, as Wisconsin rarely lets the opposition control how the game is played. Instead, the Badgers will play their slow-down “swing” offense that coach Bo Ryan has been so successful with. The Badger offense typically lulls the opposition to sleep and preys on quick shots from its opponents. If Marquette is to escape the Kohl Center with a victory, it will have to do its best to transition on offense and take open shots when presented to them. But remember: the first open shot does not necessarily mean it’s the best shot.

2. Defend the three-point line

Wisconsin is No. 5 nationally in three-point percentage at 45.3 percent. Sophomore guard Josh Gasser leads the way, ranking second nationally with a whopping 65.2 percent three-point shooting percentage (15-of-23). In fact, 42.8 percent of shots taken by Wisconsin have been from three-point land (172-of-402). Every player the Badgers put on the floor is a threat to make a shot from beyond the arc, and Marquette will have to play better than it did against Jacksonville in that aspect. Although the Dolphins only made 34.6 percent (9-of-26) of their shots from deep, they consistently had open looks. If Wisconsin is consistently allowed open looks from distance, Marquette will lose.

3. Make Jordan Taylor beat you

I know this sounds preposterous, as Taylor was a preseason first team All-American who can go off at any time. So far this year, however, Taylor hasn’t taken over a game and has allowed others to facilitate the scoring attack. Role players like sophomore guard Ben Brust, who is second on the team in scoring (12.3 points per game), and redshirt junior forward Jared Berggren, who has the ability to stretch a defense with his three-point ability despite his 6-foot-10 frame. Taylor will likely have to force a few shots against Marquette and the ability to defend him should be Marquette’s number one priority on Saturday.

Three players to watch

Marquette needs a top tier performance from its leading scorer, Darius Johnson-Odom, Saturday at Wisconsin. / Tribune file photo.

Johnson-Odom leads the Golden Eagles with 19.8 points per game, and has connected on 46.7 percent of his 3-pointers, but he has tended to disappear at times this season. Marquette will need Johnson-Odom to be consistent the entire game and be the senior leader he is capable of. Nobody on Wisconsin’s roster is athletic enough to defend Johnson-Odom for 40 minutes, and his ability to attack the basket and draw fouls — Johnson-Odom is third on the team with a 76.7 percent mark from the charity stripe — will be crucial to the Golden Eagles’ attack.

Chris Otule, redshirt junior center, Marquette

For the first time in coach Bo Ryan’s tenure at Wisconsin, the Badgers do not have a true post threat to speak of. Berggren and freshman forward Frank Kaminsky have the height to defend Otule, but they do not have the desire to guard on the blocks that former players like Keaton Nankivil had in the past. Otule has been underwhelming for Marquette at times, averaging just 6.5 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game, numbers that will not translate into a Golden Eagle victory on Saturday.

Ryan Evans, redshirt junior forward, Wisconsin

Evans has been the biggest surprise besides Brust for the Badgers thus far this season. The 6-foot-6 wing has the length to give Johnson-Odom and the rest of Marquette’s transition game a headache and has become more of a scoring threat in his third year in the program. Evans is averaging 9.6 points per game and leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game, a far cry from his 2.7 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game average through his first two years there. Evans has become a crucial role player in a Badger attack that needs all the help it can get from those types of players to succeed.

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