The Wisconsin Badgers welcome Northwestern into Madison Wednesday.
For the Badgers (17-3, 4-3), it means avoiding another upset-minded team, Northwestern (10-7, 3-5), who comes to the Kohl Center having lost 14-straight games now in Mad-Town. As a matter of fact, the last time the Wildcats tasted victory on campus in Madison was 1996 inside the Wisconsin fieldhouse.
The first time these two teams ever met, Wisconsin prevailed 55-9.
That was 1910.
Don’t expect a score like that, Wednesday. The Wildcats will need a stout defensive style if they want to aid in their chances of upsetting the No. 13 ranked team in the country. UW boasts its most productive offense in 19 years, while also grading out third best right now in the Big Ten in scoring defense (63.5 ppg).
Wisconsin continues to take care of the ball and lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game (8.3). Not putting their opponent at the free throw line has been something they’ve taken pride in, too. Wisconsin currently ranks second in NCAA in fewest fouls committed (15.0 per game).
In the background of the picture tonight remains a glimmer of the Big Ten regular season trophy.
Wisconsin, regardless of what happens the rest of the way, can’t afford a stumble in conference play. Almost getting some help from Iowa (16-5, 5-3), who fell at home to Michigan State (19-1, 8-1) in OT, Tuesday, the Badgers have some of their toughest league opponents left on the schedule (vs. Ohio State, vs. Michigan St. at Michigan, at Iowa).
It most definitely must be a game-by-game approach for coach Bo Ryan’s team.
“[Northwestern is] much improved. They’re playing well,” Ryan said. “You take away maybe eight minutes, eight, nine minutes of that game against Iowa. And people will tell you in the league they’re playing as well as anybody. We know what we have coming in here.”
UW’s streak of 13 straight home wins over NU is the 5th-longest active home win streak in the Big Ten. The Badgers opened Big Ten play this year at Northwestern winning easily, 76-49, and had a 40-14 lead at the half. They ended the night shooting one of their highest percentages of the year from the field, 55-percent.
Looking back to Wisconsin’s loss to Minnesota (68-81), Wisconsin was outscored on the bench points significantly. Their success against Northwestern earlier this season was largely due to them outscoring the Wildcats from the bench, 30-4.