On The Defensive

Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the nation this season. The 17th-ranked Badgers have used strong defense to dominate Northwestern at home for more than a decade.

The Badgers look to run their home winning streak over the Wildcats to 10 games Saturday when the Big Ten rivals meet in Madison.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Wisconsin -20 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Northwestern +20 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Wisconsin (14-2, 4-0) has defeated Northwestern (6-8, 0-4) nine straight times at home since an 82-71 loss on Feb. 21, 1996. Dominant defense has keyed the winning streak, as the Badgers have limited the Wildcats to an average of 47.1 points and have not yielded more than 58 points in any of the nine meetings.

Coach Bo Ryan's team is displaying its customary defensive prowess again this season, allowing 54.3 points per game - second-fewest in the nation behind Washington State's 52.1.

Wisconsin's season-high winning streak reached eight games with an 80-55 win at Penn State on Tuesday. The streak is Wisconsin's longest since a 17-game run from Nov. 25, 2006-Jan. 28, 2007.

Four different players have led the Badgers in scoring over the last four games, including Michael Flowers' career-high 23 points against the Nittany Lions. Flowers, a senior defensive standout, is fourth on the team with 9.0 points per game.

"A lot of it is we just make the extra pass," said Badgers center Brian Butch, who had nine points and 12 rebounds Tuesday. "We have a lot of guys on our team that can make plays and just be productive."

It's a contrast from last season, when Alando Tucker led Wisconsin in almost every offensive category. This season sophomore guard Trevon Hughes leads the team with an average of 13.7 points, while Butch is next with 13.6 and a team-high 8.0 rebounds per game.

In addition to its road losing streak to the Badgers, Northwestern is also looking to snap a nine-game skid in conference play. The Wildcats - the only winless team in Big Ten play - have not defeated a league opponent since a 53-51 win over Penn State on Feb. 10.

Playing out of conference, Northwestern won 65-47 at Chicago State on Wednesday behind 19 points and 14 rebounds from sophomore forward Kevin Coble.

Coble, who scored a career-high 34 points in a 78-68 loss to Michigan last Saturday, is averaging 18.4 points in the last five games after missing nine contests to be with his mother, who is receiving treatment for breast cancer in his hometown of Phoenix.

He had 24 points and seven rebounds in the last meeting with Wisconsin, a 69-52 loss at the Kohl Center on Feb. 3, 2007.

Northwestern has dropped its last eight games to Top 25 teams, including both meetings with Wisconsin last season. The Wildcats' last win over a ranked opponent was a 51-48 victory over then-No. 18 Iowa on Feb. 15, 2006. They have not defeated a ranked team on the road since a 58-55 win at then-No. 16 Minnesota on Jan. 6, 1999.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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