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November 30, 2011

A lengthy challenge

MADISON - Forget about John Henson's 15.8 points per game, his nearly 10 rebounds per game or three blocks per. Don't even think about his 56.2 percent shooting clip from the field or his ability to get to the free throw line.

That's just the blueprint to his success.

Spend a second thinking about his 6-foot-11 frame, his 7-foot-5 wingspan and his ability to help that up-tempo, recently removed No. 1 and currently No. 5 ranked North Carolina squad.

How in the world will Wisconsin defend that?

"It's hard for us to simulate it," UW assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "It's hard and it's something that's almost impossible to simulate."

Short of waving around broomsticks, or having the Badger student managers synchronize a trampoline routine in front of the rim, there simply is no way to accurately practice against the length of North Carolina.

Henson, as mentioned, goes 6-foot-11. The Tar Heels also have 7-footer Tyler Zeller, 6-foot-9 James McAdoo, and 6-foot-8 Harrison Barnes. Even their guards (Dexter Strickland and Kendall Marshall) stand 6-foot-3.

They all can and will run.

"You can't simulate their length, jumping ability or any of that," junior forward Ryan Evans, set to match up with one of Carolina's versatile bigs, said. "I've played against a lot of NBA guys back home.

"I know what's to be expected."

But expecting something from this uber-athletic North Carolina team and realizing what its capable of are two entirely different animals. Unfortunately in the case of Wisconsin, there will most definitely be times when a shot is deflected, a rebound is had or a passing lane is jumped that UW didn't anticipate.

"That's why we've just got to stick to our rules," UW sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "Guards have got to get back on defense and bigs have to follow up. The more we get our hands on balls the harder it is for them to go up, get it and get on the break.

"If we can tip the ball around a little bit and just get hands on balls it should really limit their transition break."

Wisconsin does have Evans. And it does have the ultimate energy and glue guy Mike Bruesewitz who will assuredly muck it up down low. Jared Berggren is a legit 6-foot-11 and somewhat agile player, particularly in the post.

UW's bigs can move a little bit, too. But they'd prefer not to get into a track meet with a team that strives for that type of play, particularly in their environment.

"We're not small," UW senior point guard Jordan Taylor said. "We have guys who are pretty long in Evan Anderson and guys we've played against in the summer. It's nothing we haven't seen before.

"It will be a fun challenge."

Fittingly, Wednesday's game will likely be one of the determining contests in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It will definitely come down to whatever team asserts its style over the other.

The transitional game is something North Carolina prides itself on. Wisconsin, at the same time, is all about team defense and forcing opponents out of their respective comfort zone.

Something will have to give.

"The more we can play our style instead of theirs it's obviously beneficial for us," Gasser said. "That just comes with us running good offense, getting good shots and hopefully knocking them down. Then it's just us doing our own thing on defense. We know they've got talent.

"We're not going to get caught up in that."



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