#4 Ranked Badgers Overwhelming Public Favorite to Beat Pacific
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Wisconsin will play with the highest ranking in school history when it hosts Pacific on Saturday. If Alando Tucker and Brian Butch can continue their strong play, the No. 4 Badgers could have a chance to climb even higher in the Top 25.
Wisconsin (11-1), looking for its eighth straight win, is off to its best start under sixth-year coach Bo Ryan. Last Saturday’s 89-75 victory over then-No. 2 Pittsburgh was the Badgers’ first against a team ranked higher than seventh during Ryan’s tenure.
“We’ve got a lot more fish to fry, we’ve got a lot more things to do than what’s happened to this point,” Ryan said. ”(But) that was a great performance, the guys played extremely hard and we can learn from this.”
Tucker has keyed the Badgers’ early season surge. The team’s leading scorer at 21.2 points per game, the fifth-year senior had 32 points and 10 rebounds against the Panthers and is averaging 25.2 points in his last five contests.
He had help from the 6-foot-11 Butch, who scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the upset of Pitt.
Butch is averaging 11.1 points per game, and scored 13 points in his previous two games before last weekend’s dominant performance. His inside play complemented Tucker’s work from the outside.
“I just always pick my points in a game,” Tucker said. “If a team’s not going to double me, I like that. If they’re not going to triple me, I like that. But if they do, I recognize I don’t have to put up big numbers as far as scoring.”
Wisconsin has won nine straight non-conference home games and 36 of its last 37.
Pacific (3-8) won 76 games in the last three seasons and two NCAA tournament games during that span, but is off to a rough start in 2006-07. The Tigers lost last season’s top two scorers in Christian Maraker (17.6 ppg) and Johnny Gray (14.8) from a team that averaged 74.3 points per game.
Pacific is averaging 67.3 points this season. The Tigers have lost five straight and failed to score more than 62 points in four of those games.
The Tigers beat Wisconsin 55-48 on Nov. 28, 1997 to even the series in the second meeting between the schools, but defeating Wisconsin will likely be tougher for Pacific this time around. The Tigers will be facing their third Top 25 opponent of the season and the highest-ranked one so far.
The Tigers, who lost 74-62 to then-No. 9 Texas A&M on Dec. 2, are coming off a 60-53 defeat to No. 25 Nevada last Saturday.
Pacific did lead 26-22 at halftime against the Wolf Pack, but shot 33.9 percent from the field for the game and were outscored 18-2 at one point in the second half.
“We needed to capitalize on the big baskets and we would have had a bigger lead,” Pacific coach Bob Thomason said. “We also needed to take advantage of open shots and the fast-break opportunities.”
Sophomore guard Steffan Johnson led the Tigers with 11 points. He’s averaging 14.5 points in his last two games.
Pacific has dropped its last seven games against ranked opponents. The Tigers beat then-No. 21 Providence 66-58 in the NCAA tournament March 19, 2004 for their last win over a Top 25 squad.
by: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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