Defense vital in victory

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoOMAHA, Neb. ? There is always any number of reasons why oneteam defeats another. In Wisconsin?s 71-56 win over Cal State FullertonThursday, one statistic more than any other stands out as most significant.The Badgers held the Big West champion Titans, a team thataveraged more than 82 points per game during the regular season, to a scant 56points on 68 possessions, well below Wisconsin?s target defensive efficiencymark of 1.0 points per possession.All that despite allowing Fullerton guard Josh Akognon toscore 31 points on 11-of-23 shooting.?I never worry about the total number (of points), I justworry about possessions, and the number of points the other team gets on them,?UW head coach Bo Ryan said. ?They did not get one point per possession, eventhough he got [31].?Akognon did most of his damage during an eight-minutestretch late in the second half, when the junior scored 13 consecutive pointsfor Fullerton. With the Titans facing a double-digit deficit, the shooter wentdown gunning, making a trio of 3-pointers to keep his team in the game.?As a defender, all you can do is try to get a hand in hisface and disrupt his natural shot,? said UW guard Michael Flowers, who spent agood chunk of his 39 minutes of play chasing Akognon all over the Qwest Centercourt. ?Players are going to get their points. There is some incredible talentin this tournament, obviously, so the only thing I?m worrying about as adefender is making it hard.?Wisconsin was able to slow down the Titans, literally andfiguratively, by limiting their fast break opportunities. Fullerton scored justfive points in transition.That shouldn?t come as much of a surprise considering theemphasis Ryan and the UW program place on eliminating easy opportunities foropponents.?Protecting the rim in transition is probably the firstdrill I remember as a Badger coming here,? forward Joe Krabbenhoft said.?Protect the rim first, everybody else hustle back and find shooters.?Given the Titans? high-octane offense, there was an evengreater need to adhere to those rules Thursday night.?Especially on this team tonight, we really had to hustleback and get a hand in the face of (Josh) Akognon and (Frank) Robinson and guyslike that, because they can really light you up from deep.?It is all part of Ryan?s grand scheme, and has been for aslong as the Badger head man has been roaming the sidelines at any level ofplay. This year, that scheme finished the season allowing the fewest points pergame in the nation.?My job ? was to make sure nobody scored a layup [against]our team,? Ryan said. ?Bitty league, junior high, high school, college: protectthe rim. Take charges. Try to scare guys from coming into the lane.?That defensive strategy seemed to be turned on its headsomewhat Thursday. With the Badgers worried about letting the sharp-shootingTitans ? CSF led the Big West Conference with 278 made 3-pointers during theseason and connected on nearly 39 percent of their deep shots ? bomb away fromthe perimeter, UW extended its defense somewhat, opening the lane for hard cutsto the hoop. Fullerton finished the game with 24 points in the paint.?What they?re establishing,? Ryan said of the Titans? offense, ?yourteam has to be able to counter that during the course of the game, and our guysdid a real good job of that tonight.?last_img

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