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January 28, 2013

Defense carrying UW during slump

MADISON - With his team mired in a shooting slump over the last two games, Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan said people are starting to reach out to him with ways to help. But it's not fellow coaches who see something technically wrong with the Badgers, who are shooting just 33 percent over their last two games and have made just 60.8 percent of their free throws this season; the advice is coming from people who are a little farther removed from the world of basketball.

"I have received a lot more emails from unknown sources about people who can do these mind things with the players," Ryan said Monday during his weekly press conference.

And while Ryan said he isn't bringing anyone in to hypnotize his players into making their free throws, Wisconsin's offensive woes have put a little bit of extra strain on the on the defensive side of the ball, where the Badgers don't have much margin for error.

Luckily for the Badgers, their defense hasn't gone the way of their free throw shooting. The Badgers are holding their opponents to just 39.8 percent shooting from the floor this season, and on average they've been able to hold their opponents to just about 55 points per game, which is good enough for eighth in the country. Ryan said his team's defensive success has come as a product of hard work, and knowing that they'll need people to contribute on a consistent basis.

"What they're doing is they're really hustling and working so doggone hard to limit look and not give teams second shots. Night in and night out, if you look across the country, it's very difficult to be consistent with that," Ryan said.

But Ryan realizes that eventually his team will need to kick start their offense if they want to keep their hopes for a Big Ten title alive. They're currently tied with Ohio State for fourth place in the conference, and with the Buckeyes up next on their schedule, just holding them to fewer possessions and depressing their points per game might not be enough to get a win in Columbus.

The No. 11 Buckeyes are fourth in the Big Ten in shooting, and they'll need to be able to make more shots if they want to avoid a repeat of their game against Michigan State, where they held the Spartans in check offensively but let a close game slip through their fingers thanks to poor shooting from the field and from the line.

"You're going to have to have some nights where you're hot offensively, to offset somebody getting hot from another team," Ryan said. "Defensively we've got to stay as solid as we can be, because I don't think any team when they do their scouting report shudders and shakes when they look at us offensively. I don't think we're intimidating anybody."

Kaminsky making progress

Injured forward Frank Kaminsky is creeping closer to returning from the eye injury he suffered against Indiana two weeks ago. Kaminsky took a finger to the eye and has missed the team's last three games, but the sophomore did a few shooting drills during practice on Sunday and as of then had been cleared for non-contact drills.

Ryan said the team would probably test Kaminsky out Monday night before they make a final decision on whether he'll be able to play against the Buckeyes. Even if he could play in a game, Ryan said that Kaminsky will likely be rusty whenever he returns to action for the Badgers.

"They're going to let him run up and down with us a little bit, and then if he doesn't have any problems or any issues then maybe we can get him back in there," Ryan said. "I'm not sure, but we'll know more tonight and we'll definitely know more tomorrow."

Bo Ryan, Presser (1/28/13)

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.

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