January 22, 2010

Wilson may spark UW's bench production

MADISON - Rob Wilson is a quiet guy off the court. When he's on the court, though, his game has oodles of potential that is capable of creating plenty of noise.

His silky smooth jump shot is one of the better ones on the team and he's more athletic than his thin, 6-foot-3 frame suggests.

"He's very long," UW senior guard Jason Bohannon said. "He's got a big wing span and good hops and everything. He does a great job of playing off what the defense gives him and defensively he keeps playing low and long and forces them into tough shots.

"Rob is getting better everyday under coach Bo Ryan."

If Wisconsin's most recent game, a come-from-behind victory over Michigan, was any sort of precursor, it seems as though Wilson is on the verge of breaking through that sound barrier.

If it wasn't his bundle of energy defensively and on the boards in the first half that got the team going, it was his impressive scoring effort and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch that did the trick.

When his team was down and nearly out as the Wolverines had built a nine-point edge with less than nine minutes to play, somebody needed to step up. And right on cue, Wilson splashed a deep three to establish some home crowd momentum.

"We see that all the time through Rob," Bohannon said. "Rob's on the scout team and does a great job of playing as Manny Harris, Evan Turner or whoever it is. He simulates them very well. As Trevon said Wednesday night, it's about time.

"He came in and showed what he was capable of doing game in and game out."

Since Jordan Taylor was shifted into the starting lineup following the indefinite injury to Jon Leuer, UW's bench took a step in the wrong direction offensively.

Without Taylor coming off the bench and chipping in nearly 10 points a game, the Badgers were strapped with several role players that weren't necessarily comfortable creating for themselves.

In the 16 games that Leuer played in, UW's bench averaged just less than 19 points per game as one of the Big Ten's best crew of reserves.

But in the three games UW has played without the services of Leuer and Taylor off the bench, the Badgers have averaged just over eight points per game off the bench. And to make it worse, without Wilson's 13-point outburst that helped the Badgers rack up 19 bench points against Michigan, UW had only scored six points off the pine in games against Northwestern and Ohio State.

Anytime there is an injury and lineups need to be shuffled around there is a good chance the team will take a couple of games to feel comfortable in their new role. Maybe Wilson found that comfort level in UW's most recent outing.

"My confidence boosted," Wilson said following a recent practice. "I wouldn't say a lot, but it boosted some (Wednesday) night. If anyone had a game like that it's easy to break out of a shell."

Prior to Wilson's 18 minutes of action against the Wolverines, including several clutch minutes down the stretch in a tight game, the Badger sophomore only averaged 9.6 minutes per game.

So with those numbers basically doubled, especially after seeing only a combined seven minutes in recent games against Michigan State and Northwestern, Wilson seemed more comfortable on the court.

"It helps you get into the flow of the game a little more," Wilson said. "It helps a lot I would say."

And it not only helps Wilson with his confidence moving forward, it helps the Badger offense that has slipped into a love affair with the three-point shot since Leuer became sidelined.

"Confidence is key at this level," UW sophomore guard Jordan Taylor said. "I think once you kind of get your feet wet the game just kind of slows down."

The bottom line is that Wilson, as well as Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren will need to continue to chip in offensively and make big shots.

Because in short, that is one area that UW has struggled in since the injury and bench production is something that could help them win some games in the future if it becomes consistent.

"It never hurts obviously," Taylor said in regards to bench production. "Whenever you get a guy like Rob that does stuff like that-and obviously Rob is capable of that as he showed because he does it in everyday in practice-it's nice to see. I'm happy for him.

"Hopefully he can keep it up and hopefully we can all get back on track shooting wise."

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