UW has enjoyed road success
“We feel like we can win every game, road or at home,” Wisconsin senior guard Jordan Taylor said. “I think the success we’ve had on the road this year is definitely a confidence booster going into this game and something you can hang your hat on.
“But it’s something you can’t get too caught up in because you’ve still got to go out and play the game.”
Despite a surprising 3-3 home record in Big Ten play, UW (18-6, 7-4) remains in the running for the Big Ten title as it begins a difficult stretch of road games at 6 p.m. today against Minnesota (17-7, 5-6).
Four of UW’s final seven league games are on the road, including four of the next five.
After playing the Gophers, UW plays at Michigan State (19-5, 8-3) on Feb. 16, returns home to face Penn State (10-15, 2-10) on Feb. 19, plays at Iowa (13-11, 5-6) on Feb. 23 and then plays at Ohio State (21-3, 9-2) on either Feb. 25 of 26.
UW has lost its last six games at Michigan State, including a 64-61, overtime decision last season.
UW is 3-1 in its last four trips to Iowa City. However, the Hawkeyes beat UW in the Kohl Center on Dec. 31 and recently beat Michigan and Minnesota at home.
Ohio State has won 39 consecutive home games.
Still, UW is 4-1 in conference road games and 5-2 overall away from the Kohl Center. Last season, UW finished 4-5 in league road games and 5-6 overall.
“The foundation of the program, in terms of what we do defensively and how we try to take care of the ball, always will give you a chance,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said when asked about the team’s road success.
“Usually on the road the margin for error is pretty slim. Teams in this league are going to make you pay if you have miscues on three or four possessions in a row.”
Part of UW’s success on the road is its ability to erase empty possessions with above-average three-point shooting.
In all road games, UW is shooting 38.2 percent from three-point range. The number jumps to 40.2 percent in Big Ten road games.
In all home games, UW is shooting just 32.9 percent from three-point range, 23 percent in Big Ten home games.
All seven of UW’s top seven scorers have higher three-point percentages on the road than at home in league play.
“I don’t have a clue,” Taylor said when asked about the disparity. “If I knew, trust me, it would not be a problem.”
Minnesota has limited foes to 30.5 percent three-point shooting in league play and 33.9 percent overall.
The Gophers lost their first two Big Ten home games—to Iowa and Purdue—after starting conference play with two road losses.
“Our psyche was a little messed up,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.
The psyche of the UW players appeared shaky after a 59-41 loss Jan. 8 at Michigan, UW’s lone road loss in the conference.
The Badgers responded with 67-62 road victory over Purdue, sparked by an impressive three-point display early in the game and 45 percent three-point shooting overall.
They hit 40.9 percent of their three-point shots in a victory at Illinois and overcame poor three-point shooting (26.3 percent) to win at Penn State.
“Every road game presents a new challenge and opportunity,” said guard Ben Brust, who is shooting 41.2 percent from three-point range in league road games and only 19.4 percent at home.
“It’s when the ball goes up it’s all about being ready and hitting some shots. I think that is something we’ve been doing on the road.”
UW enters Thursday night two games behind first-place Ohio State (21-3, 9-2). If the Badgers are going to remain in the chase, they’ll have to play well on the road over the next two-plus weeks before returning home for their final two games.
“We can’t afford to have any setbacks,” Taylor said. “We definitely don’t want to squander any opportunities like we did on Saturday.
“We’ve got seven games left, and we’ve got to try to get every single one of them.”