December 1, 2008

Five things to watch: Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. - After dismantling in-state rival Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, the Wisconsin men's basketball team has a quick turnaround, as it will take on Virginia Tech tonight on the road. The game, the Badgers fifth in 11 days, will be the opening tilt to the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The following are five things to watch during tonight's contest:

1.) Guarding the rock

Exactly a week ago, the Badgers were caught off guard by Connecticut's pressure defense in the championship game of the Paradise Jam tournament and were thus forced into 22 turnovers. Tonight, against a very athletic Hokies team, much of the same can be expected even though Virginia Tech has not displayed its pressure defense of late.

In the game against the Huskies, there was a notable drop off when freshman Jordan Taylor lacked the same poise Trevon Hughes has. So tonight, look for Hughes to guide the Badgers through the pressure defense and make sure possession stays in favor of UW.

2.) Hot-hand Hughes

Maybe getting out of the Wisconsin cold was exactly what Hughes needed to heat up his offensive scoring. Ever since the Badgers went and played in the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands, the UW junior has averaged 17 points per game, twice as much as he had averaged after the first two contests.

Even more encouraging is the fact that Hughes is not forcing shots or speeding up the game. He is letting the action come to him and take shots that are open and beneficial to the team's success. Look for him to continue his great shooting touch that includes an impressive .522 mark from downtown.

3.) The Hokies big three

Forward Jeff Allen and guards A.D. Vasallo and Malcolm Delaney all average over 16 points per game for Virginia Tech. The next highest scorer outside of those three is Victor Davila, who only averages 5.5 points per game. Of the 412 points the Hokies have scored so far, 73 percent of them have come from the Allen, Vasallo and Delaney.

4.) Big Ten blues

Overall, the Big Ten conference has never won the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wisconsin carries an overall record of 3-6 in the event, including a 0-5 mark on the road. Last season, a hot shooting Duke team pasted the Badgers 82-58. Although Virginia Tech is not quite as talented as last year's Blue Devil squad, the Badgers will have its hands full when it steps onto the Cassell Coliseum floor.

5.) Jason Bohannon struggles

On the season, the Badger sharpshooter has been anything but that. Overall, he sports a .278 shooting percentage, including an even lower .242 percentage from beyond the arc. As goes with every other shooter, the only way to break out of a slump is continuing to shoot the ball. Look for Bohannon to break out of his slump as UW has the potential to generate easy buckets if it successfully breaks through the Hokie pressure.

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