Saturday , Jan , 06 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Red-hot Badgers continue torrid pace against Golden Gophers

Madison, WI (Sports Network) – The fourth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers open up
Big Ten play this afternoon, when they host the Minnesota Golden Gophers from
the Kohl Center in Madison.

The Badgers are off to their best start in nearly 80 years, winning 14 of
their first 15 games. Bo Ryan’s squad recorded its only loss of the season
on November 24th against Missouri State and since then, the team has reeled
off 10 consecutive wins, including knocking off top-25 foes Marquette and
Pittsburgh. Most recently, the Badgers bested Georgia last Sunday, 64-54.

The Golden Gophers are just 7-8 this season and are working on their second
coach this year, following the resignation of Dan Monson. Interim coach Jim
Molinari took over on November 30th and actually has this team playing better
of late, including two straight wins coming into this contest. The Gophers
opened league play on Wednesday, beating Purdue, 65-59.

Minnesota holds a 97-84 edge in this longstanding series, but UW has won
eight of the nine meetings under Ryan’s watchful eye. In addition, Wisconsin
has won 10 straight over Minnesota at home.

The Golden Gophers lack a great deal of offensive punch this season and that
is a big reason for the team’s sub par record thus far. Minnesota is shooting
a decent .457 from the floor, but it has resulted in just 65.9 ppg. The
Gophers really have just three options at the offensive end. Lawrence McKenzie
is the team’s top sniper, leading the way with 16.3 ppg. His real strength is
from long range, where he is draining just over 40 percent of his chances (41-
of-102). Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson provide frontcourt support with
15.2 and 12.6 ppg, respectively. The pair are averaging over 12 rebounds per
game and have combined for 34 blocks. The real problem is that the next player
in line in the scoring column is Jamal Abu-Shamala, who adds just 5.2 ppg. In
the win over Purdue, McKenzie and Abu-Shamala combined for 23 of the team’s
last 27 points to lead the Gophers. McKenzie finished with 23 points to lead
the team, while Abu-Shamala added 14. Coleman recorded his second career
double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

There is no secret to Wisconsin’s success this year, as the team is getting it
done at both ends of the court. The Badgers certainly have the ability to run
and gun, averaging a robust 77.5 ppg, on nearly 50 percent shooting (.491).
Defensively, the team holds foes under 40 percent shooting (.395), yielding
just 57.9 ppg and forcing 16.2 turnovers per game on average. At the offensive
end, the team looks to All-American candidate Alando Tucker to set the pace.
Tucker is shooting .511 from the floor this year, averaging a healthy 20.6
ppg. Kammron Taylor and Brian Butch are solid complements to Tucker with 12.5
and 11.2 ppg, respectively. The Badgers struggled in Athens last weekend, but
were still able to get the win. The team shot just .412 from the field, 294
from behind the arc and turned the ball over 14 times. Tucker was explosive as
usual, finishing with 29 points. Taylor was the only other double-digit
performer, netting 14 points.