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February 25, 2012

Badgers getting too physical with Sullinger?

MADISON -- Satch Sullinger thinks teams are too physical with his son.

If the Badgers' words after practice Friday were any indication, they believe just the opposite about the way they've defended Jared Sullinger.

"Some of these bush-league coaches are beating on him just to make him lose his cool," Sullinger told the Columbus Dispatch. "I have no problem as long as it's within the spirit of the game. … But during a recent game, everyone elbowed him in the back on purpose when they came through. The first time you see it you can say it's an accident.

"The second time it's a pattern; third time, it's a program."

Satch did not specifically name any Big Ten team in particular. But the Dispatch columnist, Rob Oller, made this interpretation following the quote:

"Satch did not need to spell out W-I-S-C-O-N-S-I-N to know which program he meant."

That's all well and good, but as Wisconsin State Journal beat writer Jim Polzin pointed out, having his father call out other teams for being too physical with Sullinger makes the sophomore look soft. And it's certainly not going to do anything to make them go easier on the Buckeyes big man.

If anything, it will do just the opposite.

Especially where Wisconsin is concerned, taking it easier on Sullinger is likely the last thing they would consider doing Sunday at Columbus. Not after Sullinger scored 24 points on the Badgers in the Buckeyes' 58-52 victory on Feb. 4 at the Kohl Center.

No, the Badgers, and more specifically, Jared Berggren, know they need to do even more to limit Sullinger this time around.

"I don't know how that could be the case with us to be honest," Berggren said about Satch's comments. "I didn't think we did that good a job. For myself at least, I know I didn't do a real good job of getting physical with him. I kind of let him have his way a little bit with me.

"If he was talking about us, it is what it is. I think we can do a better job of playing him more physical. But that's a key for him. A good player like that you have to play him physical. That's the only way you're going to stop him."

Sullinger was especially effective earlier this month in the first half, when Berggren was the primary defender on him for the Badgers.

Without naming Berggren, or anyone else, specifically, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan made it clear after that game that his team did not defend Sullinger the way they had planned to do so.

"Yeah, you could say that," Ryan said when asked if the Buckeyes got the ball inside too easily in the first half. "I'm not going to sell out any particular players or anything, but if anybody thinks that's what we said we were going to do coming into that game, then you weren't at practices watching what's going on."

Asked about Sullinger after practice Friday, associate head coach Greg Gard had a similar view of what Wisconsin did not do right last time.

Gard related Sullinger's early success to the performance Thursday night of Iowa guard Matt Gatens, who was nearly impossible to stop en route to a 33-point performance. Once both players got comfortable and had some early success, they fed off it and built it into more and more points throughout the night.

Wisconsin did not double team Sullinger often during their last meeting with the Buckeyes, and it did not sound Friday like they planned to change that, either.

"We've seen try to double him and what they've done," Gard said. "That's when Lenzelle Smith went off for 28 against Indiana, and DeShaun Thomas has gone off for big numbers. Or William Buford has put up big numbers.

"On paper it looks easy. Like, 'Yeah, we can go double him,' but you forget that those other four guys are pretty good around him. So you have to kind of pick your poison on when to give some extra help. No. 1 thing is try to keep it out of his hands. That'd be the best way to stop him from scoring is to not let him catch it to begin with."

Berggren, along with Mike Bruesewitz, Frank Kaminsky and Ryan Evans will have their work cut out for them once again on the defensive end against OSU.

But with the way the second half went against the Buckeyes last time, it would be easy to presume the Badgers will do a better job of limiting Ohio State's big men this time around.

However it turns out, they're certainly up for the challenge.

"You obviously get more excited for matchups like this," Evans said. "But I was excited for the Iowa game just simply because they beat us in our house. You let that go now, and it's on to the next one. But yeah, you get more excited for big ones, obviously."


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