UW MBB: Mike Lucas: Closing gaps and fortifying team defense

Photo: Wisconsin Badgers

From UWBadgers.com

BY MIKE LUCAS

UWBadgers.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK — Two games in snowy Buffalo, New York? Done and dusted. Now it's bright lights and big city for the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and Wisconsin's Sweet 16 gameday — a fourth-consecutive appearance — against Florida (8:59 p.m. CT on TBS).

UWBadgers.com Senior Writer Mike Lucas is on the ground at Madison Square Garden's famous hardwood checking in as the eighth-seeded Badgers prepare for tonight's tip-off against the fourth-seeded Gators.

LOOKING AT THE MATCHUP IN 3D (DRIBBLE DRIVE DEFENSE)

Virginia Tech had some quick, athletic guards in Seth Allen, Ahmed Hill and Justin Robinson. By spacing the floor, the Hokies were able to stretch the UW defense and create some driving lanes off ball-screens. Robinson was constantly on the attack and consistently got to the free throw line (9-of-10). The aggressive dribble drive offense put extreme pressure on the defense and the Badgers were guilty of 22 fouls (Zak Showalter fouled out). They've collected more than 22 only three times in 36 games. As a result, the Hokies spent most of the second half at the line (16-of-21); overall, they were 21-of-26, the second most attempts against Wisconsin this season (Ohio State was 23-of-27 in Columbus).

Now for the morale of this story: Florida has quicker, faster guards than Virginia Tech and you can expect the Gators to attack the Badgers in a similar fashion, that is, off the bounce. The backcourt starters are Kasey Hill, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior from Umatilla, Florida, and KeVaughn Allen, a 6-2, 183-pound sophomore from Little Rock, Arkansas. Hill, who has 91 career starts, was second-team All-SEC. He's the only player on the Florida roster with playing experience against Wisconsin. He was a starter in a 59-53 loss to the Badgers in 2013 at the Kohl Center. Hill has accounted for 1,069 points, 522 assists and 179 steals in 135 games. Allen was first-team All-SEC and the Gators' leading scorer (13.4), though he made just 3-of-21 shots in Florida's wins over East Tennessee State and Virginia.

PROTECTING THE ROCK

When the Badgers boarded their team charter, Ethan Happ was carrying a basketball. He has been taking it everywhere. "It's for my pleasure," he said. "It's something to do when there is nothing to do. Just dribble the ball around. I started doing it during the tournament last year." The last time, Happ was in Madison Square Garden (Jan. 28), he scored a career-high 32-points in an overtime win over Rutgers. Happ was 12-of-18 from the field, including the game-tying basket at the end of regulation, and 8-of-16 from the free throw line. "Obviously, it doesn't feel like home," he said after Thursday's practice at the World's Most Famous Arena. "But we're not in awe anymore that it's Madison Square Garden like the first time that we played here (during the 2015-2016 season)."

NOTE TO QUOTE

Canyon Barry, the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year, set a Florida record by making 42 consecutive free throws over an 11-game stretch during the middle of the season. (Jason Bohannon's holds the UW mark with 39 in 2008). The 6-6, 215-pound Barry is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry. Like his dad, he shoots his free throws underhand, granny-style. Like his dad, who made 89 percent of his free throws during his ABA and NBA careers, he makes most of them (110-of-125, .880). The younger Barry started 58 of 70 games at the College of Charleston where he earned his undergraduate degree in physics. At Florida, he's in the nuclear engineering master's program. All of Canyon's half-brothers (Scooter, Jon, Brent and Drew) played pro ball. In high school (Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado), Canyon Barry not only played basketball, but he competed in baseball, tennis (he won a state doubles title) and badminton (a club sport). He also played trombone and euphonium in the school band. Barry has scored 20 or more four times, including 30 at Auburn.

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