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Thursday, March 17, 2011
Badgers put Penn State ugliness behind

By Ted Miller


TUCSON, Ariz. -- We should have seen Wisconsin coming. The Badgers are not a good team to pick against in the first round of the NCAA tournament, not even if they looked bad in their past two games.

Stylish pick to go down to scrappy Belmont? Nope. That's so 40 minutes ago after an impressive 72-58 dismantling of the Bruins, who were kind of hoping they'd get the team that lost 36-33 to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament.

Again, nope.

"I think it probably hurt us that they hadn't played as well the last couple times out," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "Most of us do a better coaching job and demand a little bit more when things haven't been going well."

The Badgers are now 9-1 in their first tournament game under coach Bo Ryan. So we should have seen this coming. And we should have remembered about point guard Jordan Taylor and forward Jon Leuer, only one of the nation's best inside-out combinations.

Taylor scored 21 points with six assists, while Leuer had 22 points and seven rebounds. Taylor was 5-of-9 from 3-point range, with the Badgers accuracy from behind the arc ultimately being the story of the game.

Belmont loves the 3 and shoots a lot of them. But both teams shot 22, and the Badgers were happy to hit 12 while the Bruins were less enthused about their six.

"[When] we are hitting shots, believe it or not, we tend to play better," Ryan said.

This was not the team that got drubbed by Ohio State end embarrassed by Penn State. But Ryan and his Badgers weren't biting on whether their downturn and the rising skepticism about whether they were ready for the tournament served as motivation.

Ryan is all about what's next, and his players apparently have digested his philosophy.

"We forgot about those last two games as soon as they were over," Taylor said.

Let's not forget, the Badgers, now 24-8, had won eight of nine before the two-game skid.

Still, Taylor did admit that scoring just 33 points in a loss is, well, remarkably ugly. They had 34 at the half against the Bruins.

"Anytime you lose you want to play better," he said. "You want to get back on the court."

Here's a guess the court of public opinion may now judge these Badgers a bit differently.