Preview: No. 4 UW vs. E. Kentucky

MADISON, Wis. - At no point this season did Wisconsin fans think that this Badgers team would go into a game with a size advantage. Sure, the Badgers (11-0) start a 7-footer, but it is no secret that the team is undersized at the four - with 6-foot-7 Sam Dekker playing out of his usual position - and at the three spot - with 6-foot-3 Josh Gasser filling the hole once owned by Mike Bruesewitz.
While the Badgers have handled the size of its opponents up until this point to the tune of 11 wins and zero losses, the fact that the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (7-3) do not have any players taller than 6-foot-8 should come as a welcome surprise.
"Right after the game [Wednesday] coach Ryan said that [Eastern Kentucky] would be different than any team we've seen all year," Gasser said. "I was looking them up [on Thursday] and from what I gathered, they're small, they can shoot it, and they're fast."
The Colonels small lineup - which features four guards between the heights of 6-foot and 6-foot-5 - has fired up 268 three point attempts this season, just ten shy of the 278 shots they have put up from inside the arc. That balance makes it difficult for opposing teams to stop an offense that averages 78.0 points per game.
"They've got a combination of guys that can shoot the three as well as getting to the rim," Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close said, "so that really stretches your defense out. It's going to make for a tougher defensive matchup in the sense that they can beat you in a variety of ways. We're going to have to rotate quickly, get out on shooters quickly, move our feet and cut off driving angles and have all five guys working together."
Where the Colonels really earn their scholarships, however, is on the defensive end of the floor. Owners of the second-best turnover margin in all of college basketball (+7.7), Eastern Kentucky's opponents have turned the ball over an average of 18.2 times per game so far this season.
In their 76-67 victory over Longwood University (3-7) on Dec. 7, the Colonels forced 22 turnovers - 12 of which came in the second half. In the team's 71-68 overtime loss at Virginia Commonwealth, the Colonels forced the Rams, who average 13.9 turnovers per game, into 16 turnovers.
It shapes up to be an interesting storyline because not only does Wisconsin commit the fewest turnovers per game in the nation (8.9) this season, but it has not committed 18 turnovers in a game since 2009 at UW-Green Bay in an 88-84 overtime loss and has not committed more than 18 turnovers since 76-57 loss in 2008 against then-No. 2 UConn in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As preparation for Eastern Kentucky's opportunistic defense, Close really drove home the notion of ball fakes in Friday's practice. While the Colonels tend to play a zone defense - both a 2-3 and a 1-3-1 - all five players on the floor have a tendency to jump the passing lane, as evidenced by the 11.1 steals per game (fourth-best in the nation) they put out.
The lone meeting between these two programs all-time came on Nov. 19, 2005 at the Paradise Jam semifinals in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Alando Tucker put in a career-high 38 points and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes to lead the Badgers to a 95-89 double-overtime victory. In that game the Badgers committed 16 turnovers.
Even if Wisconsin starting forward Frank Kaminsky is able to suit up because of an ailing right foot, this game will be decided by guard-play and ball-control. For a team eying it's best start to a season in the program's history, the Badgers will be sure to not drop the ball against Eastern Kentucky, in more ways than one.
Game Info
When and Where: 12 p.m. Saturday at the Kohl Center
Radio: 1310 AM, 101.5 FM
Coach: Bo Ryan, 302-113 in his 13th season at Wisconsin.
Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)
1 Ben Brust 6-1 Sr. 12.0
12 Traevon Jackson 6-2 Jr. 11.3
15 Sam Dekker 6-7 So. 14.2
21 Josh Gasser 6-3 Jr. 9.7
44 Frank Kaminsky 7-0 Jr. 14.7
Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)
10 Nigel Hayes 6-7 Fr. 4.0
13 Duje Dukan 6-9 Jr. 3.5
24 Bronson Koenig 6-3 Fr. 3.5
Quick hits: Frank Kaminsky (foot) is a game-time decision…Zach Bohannon (knee) is listed as doubtful…Wisconsin is 5-0 against the RPI top 50. No other team in the nation has more than three wins over the RPI top-50. The Badgers have played the 19th-toughest schedule in the nation according to ESPN's RPI…This is the Badgers' final game before they go on a 14-day break for exams. They will close out the non-conference portion of their schedule by hosting Prairie View A&M on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 1 p.m. on ESPNU.
Coach: Jeff Neubauer, 150-115 in his ninth season at Eastern Kentucky.
Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)
0 Glenn Cosey 6-0 Sr. 19.3
2 Corey Walden 6-2 Jr. 12.0
12 Marcus Lewis 6-4 Sr. 12.2
34 Tarius Johnson 6-5 Sr. 6.4
42 Eric Stutz 6-8 Jr. 6.2
Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)
5 Isaac McGlone 6-2 Fr. 3.1
15 Orlando Williams 6-4 Sr. 11.0
22 Timmy Knipp 6-7 Jr. 4.7
Quick hits: Eastern Kentucky is coming off a season in which they won a school record 25 games…Glenn Cosey is shooting 91.8 percent from the free throw line. He also leads the team in assists per game with 4.9…The Colonels lost 71-68 in overtime at Virginia Commonwealth on December 5.
Why you should worry: The Colonels are owners of the second-best turnover margin in all of college basketball. They force an average of 18.2 turnovers per game while committing just 10.5 themselves.
Why you shouldn't worry: Eastern Kentucky's tallest player is Eric Stutz who stands at 6-foot-8. The Badgers will be attacking early and often….The Colonels are one of the worst offensive rebounding team's in the nation as they grab a mere 18.8 percent of their own misses.
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