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December 1, 2010

Equipment issues affected offense in Orlando

MADISON -- For a brief moment, Keaton Nankivil had an impressive two-handed dunk in transition, on a nice feed from teammate Mike Bruesewitz.

As he was landing, the ball was rejected by the net, popping out of the basket and into the hands of Boston College freshman Danny Rubin. While the ball certainly cleared the rim, it must pass through the net to count as a made basket.

That missed dunk was the perfect example of the ball, rim and net issues that Wisconsin, along with every other team in the Old Spice Classic, had to deal with over the weekend in Orlando.

"Have you seen anything like that? I've never seen anything like that," said assistant coach Lamont Paris of the dunk. "He had so much rotation on the ball, that it grabbed the net and jumped out of there."

Nankivil was far from the only player to experience issues with the basketball at the HP Field House, a part of Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

In the first half against Notre Dame, the Badgers shot 29 percent from the field and just 10 percent (1-of-10) from beyond the arc. A day earlier against Boston College, Wisconsin made only three of 16 attempts from 3-point range, an 18.8 percent clip.

But nothing quite compared with the performance against Manhattan on Thursday in round one of the tournament.

In the first half, the two teams went to the half with the Badgers leading 17-10, shooting a combined 21.8 percent from the field. Wisconsin made 7-of-30 from the floor, including 1-for-7 beyond the arc, while Manhattan went 5-for-25 and 0-for-4 from three.

The combined low of 27 points was outdone in the second round, when Notre Dame led California 21-5 at the half. In that game, neither team made more than 28 percent of its shots, while the Fighting Irish went 1-for-20 from 3-point range.

In the first half, the Golden Bears went 2-for-25 (8 percent) from the floor, and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. Notre Dame was 9-for-32 at halftime, with an 0-for-13 mark from three.

"We weren't the only team in that tournament that didn't shoot the ball well," Paris said. "Whether you want to attribute that to the balls or whatever it was, no one shot the ball well in that tournament."

Was the basketball, a composite ball named "The Rock," a factor?

"Me personally, I think it was," Paris said. "Whether it was or whether it wasn't, in our guys' minds it was. The ball was fresh out of the box, it hadn't been dribbled but three times maybe before the tournament. It was the type of ball that I could palm it with two fingers.

"It was just really grippy. It wasn't coming off the backboard how guys were used to, it clung to your fingers when you tried to release it, so it didn't come off the same way. It wasn't just our team, everybody was struggling shooting the ball. It was one of the strangest things I've seen to have a crisp, brand-new ball like that out there."

With the sticky, grippy nature of the basketball being used, it likely altered the shots of the players, which took some getting used to. By the second half of every game, both teams adjusted to the way the ball came off their hands and began to score more points and make a higher percentage of their shots.

Still, when asked about it Monday, the Badgers' offensive leaders, Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor were not ready to make any excuses for poor shooting performances as the team shot 38.9 percent overall and 25 percent from 3-point range.

"They were a little bit stickier, I thought," said Leuer, who shot 45.4 percent on the weekend and 35.7 percent beyond the arc. "It came off your hand a little bit different. The rims were pretty tight, too. But that's something you have to deal with and play with.

"Obviously you don't get a lot of shots on those baskets, and you're not really familiar with the balls, but you can't make excuses for that. You have to be able to, under any circumstances just step up and knock down shots."

Taylor, who shot 32.4 percent from the floor and 28.5 percent from three on the weekend, gave even less credit to the basketballs, rims and nets for the Badgers' offensive struggles.

"Every basketball is the same diameter," Taylor said. "Nothing really changes. Obviously the feel's a little different, but we were down there playing with that ball for the past week, and we've played with it before.

"You never use the ball and the rims as an excuse. You've just got to play through that stuff. It's not anything we were thinking about."




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