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December 8, 2010MADISON -- Through nine games this season, Wisconsin has held its opponent to 60 points or less. Three times, the Badgers have given up fewer than 50 points.
With Rob Jeter and UW-Milwaukee in town Wednesday night, Bo Ryan's squad put together arguably its best defensive showing yet. With the Panthers struggling to shoot throughout the contest, the Badgers turned in a dominant 61-40 victory.
"Coming in tonight, playing a team like the Badgers, what we're trying to do is we're trying to get back on track shooting the basketball," Jeter said. "It's the wrong team to play to do that against."
Wisconsin held its first of three consecutive in-state rivals to just 30.8 percent shooting from the floor, as UW-Milwaukee made just 12-of-39 shots on the night. In the first half, the Panthers were even worse, shooting at just a 28.6 percent clip, connecting for just six field goals en route to 15 points at the break.
In the second half, UW let up just a bit, allowing 25 points on 33.3 percent shooting. Much of the damage came at the free throw line for UWM, however, as the Panthers made 11-of-16 attempts in the second half and 13-of-21 overall, compared to just 10-for-12 on the night for the Badgers.
After limiting the Panthers to 40 points Wednesday, the Badgers' opponents are now averaging just 52.5 points per game. The 40-point output was 15 fewer points than UW-Milwaukee's previous season low, while marking the second-fewest points allowed this season by Wisconsin, which gave up just 35 against Manhattan.
The problems started inside for UW-Milwaukee.
"We never really got a chance to get our inside game going at all," Jeter said. "It was null and void and we just couldn't get anything going down there. That was the key."
Leading the way for Wisconsin's stingy defense Wednesday night was senior forward Keaton Nankivil. While he is not going to sneak up on anyone as an offensive threat, Nankivil's defense typically flies under the radar.
Against the Panthers, the Madison native grabbed nine rebounds, six on the defensive end, while blocking three shots and effectively shutting down UW-Milwaukee's leading scorer in Anthony Hill.
According to his head coach, the only area in which Nankivil lacked during the game was his wardrobe.
"His one sock wasn't quite as high as the other," Ryan said. "He was unbalanced when he got dressed, but other than that, he had a pretty good night."
Hill, who averaged 14.9 points per game coming into the contest, tallied just three against the Badgers, all of which came from the charity stripe. Thanks in large part to Nankivil's tough defense, Hill went 0-for-8 from the floor while converting 3-of-6 free throws.
Hill added five rebounds and one block, but was otherwise rendered ineffective on the night at the Kohl Center.
"He got touches," Jeter said. "Keaton Nankivil just did a nice job of staying between him and the basket and you are going to have to make a decision, is it a good play or is it a foul. They didn't call fouls, so I have to assume that it was a good defensive play."
On no play was Nankivil's defense more impressive than the Panthers' offensive possession with just under five minutes to play in the first half.
With the Badgers leading 22-11, a jumper by Jerard Ajami was blocked by Nankivil, and five seconds later, Nankivil rejected an attempt inside by Hill as well.
"You don't really think about it when you play, but I've always loved blocking shots as a player just because it's an energy thing," Nankivil said. "That's always just been something that's fun to me."