Savannah State (4-7) at (14) Wisconsin (9-2)
Thursday, December 15th, 8:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kohl Center (17,142) -- Madison, Wisconsin. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: SSU 2-1, Wisconsin 6-1. Away Record: SSU 1-6, Wisconsin 1-1. Neutral Record: SSU 1-0, Wisconsin 2-0. Conference Record: SSU 1-1, Wisconsin 0-0. Series Record: Wisconsin leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Back at the Kohl Center in Madison for the first of two straight and four of their next five games overall, the 14th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers tangle with the Savannah State Tigers in non-conference action tonight.
Since losing back-to-back games to North Carolina and Marquette by a combined 10 points, the Badgers have bounced back to take care of three more opponents in order to run their record to 9-2 overall. However, those victories have not been easy whatsoever, and Tuesday night at Milwaukee was a perfect example of that as the Panthers kept the game close until the final moments when Wisconsin was able to secure the six-point road win, its first true road victory of the 2011-12 campaign.
As for the Tigers, they've had a tough time coming up with wins against anybody thus far, displaying a total of just four victories in 11 opportunities. In action on Monday night, Savannah State clashed with Coastal Georgia, a program that operates out of the Southern States Athletic Conference at the NAIA level, and came out on top in an 80-42 decision. Considering it was the first-ever game for Coastal Georgia against a Division I opponent, the outcome was predictable. The win snapped a brief two-game slide by Savannah State.
The Badgers won the only previous game between these two programs four years ago with a resounding 79-32 final at home in Madison.
Before a crowd of barely 400 at Tiger Arena on Monday night, Savannah State caught a break in the schedule with a meeting against Coastal Georgia, a team that had just five scholarship players available and dressed three walk-ons in what became a 38-point blowout. Deric Rudolph gave his stats a boost as he tallied 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting from three-point range, followed by Cedric Smith with 10 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Even though he finished with just four points in 22 minutes, Preston Blackmon made his presence known with 10 of his team's 26 assists on the night. Blackmon, one of only two players to have started all 11 games for the Tigers, checks in with 7.5 ppg and is averaging 11.0 apg which places him among the nation's elite. Rashad Hassan is responsible for 13.0 ppg as the only double-digit scorer on the roster, but he is also the antithesis of Blackmon with a mere four assists, against 22 turnovers thus far.
Jared Berggren tallied 17 points, leading three Badgers in double figures, as the visitors barely got by Milwaukee at U.S. Cellular Arena a couple nights back. Ryan Evans scored a career-high 16 points, shooting 5-of-8 from the floor while also pulling down eight rebounds, his efforts on the glass placing him second behind Berggren who pulled nine boards. Jordan Taylor tacked on 14 points, although he shot just 5-of-14 from the floor for a group that hit just 41.3 percent of its total shots, yet hit 6-of-14 (.429) out on the perimeter. After 11 games, Berggren is the top scorer for the unit with his 12.3 ppg, thanks to his 53.5 percent effort from the floor, and not that far behind are Ben Brust (11.9 ppg) and Taylor (11.8 ppg), although the latter really needs to make better shot selections before his mere 36.0 percent field goal efficiency begins to adversely affect the program. Prior to the meeting with Milwaukee, the Badgers were allowing a mere 44.9 ppg, the best mark in all of Division I.
The score tonight might not be as lopsided as the first meeting between these two programs, but don't be surprised if the Tigers again fail to break the 40- point barrier given how strong the defense has been for the Badgers in the early going.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 71, Savannah State 38
12/15 10:31:59 ET