Marquette Men’s Basketball: Badgers will provide toughest test to date

Sophomore guard Vander Blue leads MU with 15 steals through six games. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

After a six-day stay in the Virgin Islands last week, Thanksgiving break and a Monday night contest at home, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said his team’s main focus this week was to attend classes and catch up on school work.

It’s good timing, considering the Golden Eagles have their first test of the year this weekend.

No. 16 Marquette will carry its perfect 6-0 record to Madison to take on senior guard Jordan Taylor and the No. 9/7 Wisconsin Badgers (6-1) at the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon.

“I think our guys will be excited, and I think it’ll be a great test,” Williams said. “I have unbelievable respect for coach (Bo) Ryan and their program and what they’ve been able to accomplish. You look at their non-conference record at the Kohl Center, not a lot of people win there.”

Since Ryan took over in 2001, the Badgers have compiled a 156-11 record at home, including a 78-5 record against non-conference teams. They currently own a 23-game winning streak at the Kohl Center and have won the last two meetings against the Golden Eagles.

Entering the North Carolina game, The Badgers have averaged just 59.7 possessions per 40 minutes according to Ken Pomeroy, fourth lowest in the nation. In comparison, Marquette has averaged 73.2 possessions per 40 minutes, ranked 30th in the country, according to Pomeroy.

Williams conceded that Wisconsin will play its brand of basketball regardless of the opponent, but he said the Golden Eagles will continue to impose their offensive philosophy by pushing the ball up the floor.

“My beliefs have become stronger in what I believe to be right on both ends of the floor,” Williams said. “And so there becomes less tweaks in what we do in preparation for an opponent.

“We will tweak it but, no, we’re not changing our thesis on what we believe to be right and wrong on how we play,” he added.

Efficiency is again a key component for the Wisconsin offense. Its 45.3 three-point percentage is fifth in the nation and it leads the nation in field goal percentage defense, limiting teams to just 32.1 percent shooting.

The Golden Eagles will need to be prepared for a 40-minute slugfest, but senior forward Jae Crowder said the team is ready for the challenge.

“I feel like we’re ready,” Crowder said. “I think we’re a step ahead of where we were last year heading into this game, so I think the guys are all hooked up. It’s a big game for us to set the tone going into the Big East.”

He also downplayed the rivalry aspect of the contest, saying the team is more worried about adding another tally to the win column than they are accomplishing a win over the Badgers.

Freshman guard Todd Mayo, who recorded a career-high 15 points against Jacksonville on Monday, said the team is excited for the improved competition they will face Saturday.

“I think we’re ready” he said. “We’ve been putting in work, we’ve been knocking teams off, but this is our big test because they’re top-10, and we’re nationally ranked.”

Setting the tone for the Badgers will be preseason first team All-American Jordan Taylor, who finished with 18 points last night in the Badgers loss to No. 5 North Carolina. The senior has been solid through seven games but has received help from sophomore guards Ben Brust and Josh Gasser and redshirt junior center Jared Berggren to help with the scoring load.

When asked about the rivalry, Williams also downplayed it, instead choosing to take a “one game at a time” approach to Saturday’s contest.

“I don’t subscribe to, if we beat Wisconsin it’s a successful season and if we lose it’s a bad season,” Williams said. “I wish I had a job where I could feel that way.”

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