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December 10, 2011MADISON - When asked about UNLV and the problems it presents, Wisconsin assistant coach Lamont Paris didn't hesitate to respond in defiant fashion.
"It's a little bit like North Carolina," Paris said. "They seem to be every bit as athletic as North Carolina. I didn't see too much fall off from position to position between the two teams athletically.
"That will be a challenge for us again."
Speaking of challenges, here's five to keep an eye on during Wisconsin's meeting with the Runnin' Rebels, a team that beat the Badgers a season ago.
1.) Another lengthy challenge:
When UW played at North Carolina and at home to Marquette last week, it was obvious how the Badgers struggled offensively. There was never really any flow. There was never really any sustained momentum. And most importantly, there was never any rhythm to UW's shot taking.
In those two games UW shot a paltry 34 percent from the field and an even worse 27 percent clip from downtown. The length, athleticism and defensive attitude each of those Top 15 programs displayed clearly disrupted the Badgers offensive synchronicity.
UW, and namely Jordan Taylor, never really seemed to be comfortable in either of those two game. He shot a combined 10-of-30 from the field and 3-of-13 from downtown. Against UNLV, a team with just as much athleticism and defensive desire, UW will need to do a better job finding it's offensive rhythm.
2.) A veteran squad of Rebels:
Mike Moser, UNLV's leading scorer and UCLA transfer, aside, UNLV returns a number of players from the 2010-11 team that knocked off the Badgers in Las Vegas a season ago. Tre'Von Willis, the Rebels leading scorer from a season ago, exhausted his eligibility but he hasn't been missed too much as nearly five UNLV scorers average double-digits.
Moser (15.8 points per game) paves the way for the Rebels. Chance Stanback (15.1), Oscar Bellfield (11.6), Justin Hawkins (11.2) and Anthony Marshall (9.6) round out a very balanced scoring attack, and one that won't be easy to shut down.
"You can tell they play well with each other," Paris said. "They play well off each other. They're very talented offensively. Very talented. They can hurt you from a lot of different positions.
"They'll be a very good team."
3.) Where's Bruesewitz?
Though he's been more than serviceable for the Badgers through nine non-conference games, Mike Bruesewitz hasn't been playing up to the level that he expects on a personal level.
He's averaging 6.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, but he's still not satisfied with his production on both ends of the court.
"I feel like I could do a lot more," Bruesewitz said earlier this week. "I don't think I've played great. I think there's still room to improve, definitely a lot of room to improve on the way I've played early this year.
"I've just got to get back in the gym and go to work."
Against North Carolina and Marquette, two of the more athletic teams Wisconsin has played so far this season, Bruesewitz has hit just one of his eight shots and averaged a rather meek 3.5 points per game.
In games that are expected to go down to the wire, as Saturday's tilt against UNLV is, it's usually the team that gets a break here or there that wins. And most of the times a team creates its own breaks. Bruesewitz, with the way he's active on both sides of the ball, will be able to help in that regard.
4.) Points in the paint:
It seems as though Jared Berggren is gaining confidence with his post game as the season wears along. Last time out the junior scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Because he didn't connect on his lone 3-point attempt, Berggren's entire scoring slate came in the paint.
That's a trend that needs to continue against UNLV. When Berggren scores in the post it opens up more shot opportunities around the perimeter because teams need to pay him more attention. When he's shooting from the outside, and when he's missing, it tends to clog the Badger offense because it suddenly becomes awfully one-dimensional and mostly reliant on making shots from the perimeter.
5.) Streak on the line:
Wisconsin has won 43-straight non-conference games inside the Kohl Center against unranked opponents. UNLV is unranked, though it is receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches Poll. The Runnin Rebels are essentially the 26th best team in the country.
No matter what happens in Saturday's game, it's apparent either Wisconsin or UNLV will have a nice resume win that should come in handy as the season wears on.