February 7, 2012

UW shooting woes inexplicable

MADISON -- Call them the "Bizarro Badgers."

They struggle to shoot and score at home while excelling on the road. UW has made just 31-of-135 (23 percent) from beyond the arc in six Big Ten home games, while hitting 41-of-102 (40.2 percent) away from the Kohl Center in conference play.

For the season, Wisconsin even has twice as many home losses as road defeats.

"It's crazy," said head coach Bo Ryan. "And if there was an answer that was easily obtainable, I think we'd have had it by now. Slow as I am, we'd have had it by now."

While the Badgers shooting percentages in league play show a distinct home-road disparity, their overall numbers balance out a little better. In 15 home games, Wisconsin has shot 43.5 percent from the field and 33 percent from the perimeter, while connecting on 40.6 percent of its shots on the road, including 38.2 percent from 3-point range.

Some of the players' individual numbers show an even greater disparity between home an road shooting.

Jordan Taylor is shooting 28.1 percent from outside in home games, compared with a 34.1 percent mark on the road. Jared Berggren connects on just 31.5 percent of his threes at the Kohl Center, compared with 45.8 percent on the road. Mike Bruesewitz has made 26.3 percent beyond the arc at home while connecting 47.1 percent of the time away from Madison.

In fact, Bruesewitz has hit 10 shots from 3-point range at home, compared with eight on the road is less than half as many attempts. Taylor has made 16 home 3-pointers and 14 on the road in 16 fewer attempts. Berggren is 17-of-54 at home and 11-of-24 away from it.

While the significantly smaller sample size of 15 home games versus seven on the road could account for some of the differences, it does not explain the clear trend across the board.

"I haven't, junior high, high school, Division III, at UW-M (Milwaukee), here, I've never had a team get into those kind of phases," Ryan said. "It's just something in practice you just keep working on your shooting drills. Free throws, we weren't very good early, but you just, you can't yell somebody into shooting free throws better."

The same goes for 3-pointers it would seem.

While these numbers would be unusual for any team, they're especially hard to explain for a Wisconsin team that has typically dominated in front of its home crowd.

Despite their reputation at the Kohl Center, the Badgers rank 333rd in home court advantage this season, according to TeamRankings.com. They finished fifth in the nation a year ago.

Along with typically excelling at home, UW has been known to struggle shooting away from the Kohl Center, especially in neutral site games.

Last season, Wisconsin shot at a 49.2 percent clip at home over 16 games, including 44.2 of its 3-pointers. On the road (11 games), those numbers dropped to 41.2 percent and 33.1 percent. In seven neutral site games, the Badgers were even worse, hitting just 37.9 percent overall and 29.6 on threes.

During the 2009-10 season, UW shot 47.5 overall and 36.4 from outside in 17 home games. On the road over 10 games, they hit 42.2 and 37.8 percent of their shots. And in six neutral site games, Wisconsin shot at a 39.2 percent clip and hit 30 percent of its threes.

In 2008-09, Taylor's freshman season, the Badgers shot 45.9 percent at the Kohl Center and 38.7 percent from 3-point range over 16 games. UW hit 43.8 percent of its shots in 11 road games, including 35.8 percent of threes. And at neutral sites, their numbers dropped to 36.8 percent overall and 30.3 percent from outside in six games.

Does Taylor have any idea as to what may be the reason behind the home/road shooting disparity?

"I don't have a clue," Taylor said. "If I knew -- trust me, it would not be a problem if I had the answer for you."

The biggest disparity in those seasons came a year ago, when Wisconsin shot 11.1 percent better from 3-point range at home than on the road. The only time they improved on the road was the year before that, but it was just a 1.4 percent difference. This year's squad is 5.2 percent better from the perimeter on the road, and 16.8 percent better in Big Ten play.

And it all adds up to Wisconsin's first four-home loss season during Ryan's tenure. By comparison, the Badgers -- who are 11-4 at home this season -- went 45-4 at the Kohl Center over the last three seasons. Overall, Ryan's teams had lost just 11 times in 147 home games prior to this year.

"When you look at Wisconsin basketball, it has stood the test of time," said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta after his team's victory Saturday, the first of his career at the Kohl Center.

"[With] how many times we, and a lot of teams, have come in here and gone home without a win."

Whatever the reason may be, though, that has not been the case as often this season.


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