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Question of the Day
Bo Ryan sounded like a self-help guru.
Wisconsin’s coach still trusts his players even if they’ve lost five of their last six games. But if the Badgers have lost confidence along the way, they’re going to have to find some way to break out of the winter funk on their own.
The school-best 16-0 start is a distant memory. Maybe a trip to last-place Illinois on Tuesday will get them going.
“What happens with players … if they have lost confidence, it isn’t because anybody doesn’t believe in them,” Ryan said Monday. “But it’s because they have self-doubts … It’s a tough thing because it’s you - you’re the ones who have to overcome it.”
The Badgers (17-5, 4-5 Big Ten) are sliding down the league standings following losses last week to Northwestern and Ohio State that dropped them out of the Top 25 on Monday.
With three decades of coaching experience, Ryan has just about seen it all. In a typically calm voice, he spoke about the coaches’ duties to help to point guard Traevon Jackson and the rest of the team feel like they have a chance to succeed on every possession, every game.
To help gauge his team’s aptitude, Ryan for the first time gave his team a test during a video session. Twenty-eight clips, 28 questions.
“Pretty perceptive group. They caught a lot of the teaching points, but you never know,” he said.
It also gave him another avenue to figure areas in which the team needed to improve going into the Illini game.
“At least it was encouraging to know that this player did not rotate or this player did not pump fake or this player did not - and we did it without worrying about who, what individual it was,” Ryan said. “But the idea was, OK, these are the things that we have to work on.”
Last time against Illinois, a 95-70 win at home, the Badgers were at the peak of their powers and ranked fourth in the Top 25. A three-game losing streak started the next game, Jan. 14 at Indiana, and the Badgers allowed each those opponents to shoot at least 50 percent.
There was a one-game reprieve with a 72-58 victory at Purdue on Jan. 25 before the losses hit again. This time, offense was the bigger issue after shooting 26 percent against Northwestern.
Then came the 59-58 loss Saturday to the Buckeyes. Wisconsin had plenty of chances to win, but missed too many foul shots late, while Ohio State asserted itself more in the paint in the second half.
The Badgers looked best early when they were the more active team in the lane. The Buckeyes clamped down after halftime and the game’s last possession ended in the hands of two struggling players - Jackson couldn’t get a good shot, and had to pass to forward Sam Dekker for a rushed, missed 3 at the buzzer.
No one is pointing fingers. The team-first Badgers are disappointed, but the players say the chemistry is fine.
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