Badgers men's basketball braces for talented Florida
NOV 11, 2013 4:39p ET
No. 20 Wisconsin plays host to No. 11 Florida at 8 p.m. CT Tuesday night at the Kohl Center. Both teams will have an opportunity to make an early statement -- Florida after a lackluster performance against North Florida and Wisconsin after a stellar opener against St. John's.
"Not very many schools do this," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said Monday. "Not very many schools open up at home against a top-10 opponent. It's hard in scheduling to do that. A lot of teams like to have games early at home that they can get their rotations and get their feel for who should be playing and how many minutes. This isn't your normal. But it's us playing Florida. A great program. Great tradition. Let's play."
Florida opened its season with a closer-than-expected 77-69 victory against North Florida on Friday. Senior forward Casey Prather scored a career-high 28 points, while guard Michael Frazier II added 19 points and guard Kasey Hill 15. Forward Patric Young, a preseason all-SEC first-team selection, scored just two points with two rebounds in 20 minutes.
In that game, North Florida made nine of its final 15 3-point attempts to close a 19-point gap down to seven. The Gators compounded their problems by tallying only two field goals over the final six minutes.
"We are light years away from even being remotely a good defensive team and light years away from even being a ranked team,” Donovan told reporters after the game, adding he was "disappointed" with his team.
The Gators already have had their share of problems to begin the year. Less than two weeks ago, Donovan announced that transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris had been suspended in addition to senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin because of a violation of team rules. All three missed the team's regular-season opener and are expected to miss Tuesday's game against Wisconsin as well.
Ryan anticipates even a depleted Florida roster will present one of the more difficult challenges Wisconsin will face in its nonconference schedule.
"They always have a lot of good players," he said. "So if they're missing one or two or whatever, it's not as big a factor as it might be with what I've seen at other programs. He's got a lot of guys who had unbelievable credentials coming out of high school. So they're always loaded that way. They play hard. They always compete at a high level. Just the consistency is pretty obvious."
Wisconsin began its season with an 86-75 victory against St. John's on Friday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. Five players scored in double figures, led by guard Josh Gasser's 19 points. Sam Dekker (16 points), Duje Dukan (15), Ben Brust (15) and Traevon Jackson (13) also scored in double figures.
Gasser's performance came after missing all of last season with a torn ACL, and it marked his first official college game in 19 months.
"It was Josh Gasser of last summer before he got hurt," Ryan said. "You can't get that back, but we have him back. That's something that we needed. He brings a lot to the arena, to a competitive environment because just his nature of basketball IQ and how he plays the game. He does affect other people around him."
A year ago, Florida pummeled Wisconsin 74-56 in Gainesville, less than three weeks after Gasser went down with his injury. The Badgers also were trying to get then-senior Mike Bruesewitz into the playing fold after he sustained a leg injury that sidelined him early as well. Wisconsin trailed that game 9-0 and never led.
Ryan, of course, is hoping for a role reversal when the teams meet Tuesday.
"That was on the road against a very good opponent," he said. "We didn't overeact and we didn't underreact to it. But there's some things that they did in that game that they're still doing. You're going to have to defend. They do a very good job of driving and dishing and getting to the rim, getting to the line. We always look at the past games."
The Badgers are 181-18 at home under Ryan (.910 winning percentage). They also are 30-11 at the Kohl Center (.732) against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25.
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