What’s the answer for Wisconsin? Simple: shooting.


MADISON, Wis. – Ben Brust is Wisconsin’s most important player.

I know, I think it sounds ridiculous, too.

But bear with me for a second. The Badgers have, more or less, three impressive wins on the season. On November 26th, the Badgers knocked off BYU 73-56 thanks to 21 points — and 7-10 shooting from beyond the arc — from Brust. On December 10th, Wisconsin knocked off UNLV 62-51. Brust was even more impressive in that one, finishing with 25 points and knocking down all seven of the threes he attempted. While he wasn’t quite as effective in the Badger’s win over Purdue, Brust still led the team in scoring, going for 13 points and hitting 3-4 from distance.

That’s it for Wisconsin’s impressive wins.

And in the Badger’s five losses?

Brust is shooting 33% from the field and 5-26 from three. The only time he reached double figures in a loss was when he scored 11 points against Iowa, and it took him 13 shots to get there.

Obviously, Brust isn’t the most important player on this team, at least not while Jordan Taylor is still wearing a Wisconsin jersey. But Brust does epitomize precisely what plagues this Badgers team: they are too streaky.

Defensively, Wisconsin is just as good as the numbers suggest. Kenpom has them as the second best team in the country in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, giving up 0.813 PPP, and what happens on the country is backed up by the numbers. Next time Wisconsin is on TV, watch how many open shots their opponents gets. Watch how many cuts they make without getting bumped. Watch how well Bo Ryan’s team rotates defensively. They are a fundamentally sound defensively.

And they are helped out immensely by the fact that their style of play — killing the pace and taking any and all flow out of the game — destroys their opponent’s rhythm. When you aren’t used to playing at a crawl, frustration builds. It becomes that much more difficult to know down an open shot.

The offensive end of the floor is where Wisconsin’s issues lie.

Simply put, they’ve had their issues scoring against good teams. And when Wisconsin struggles scoring, they lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re holding a team to 59 points if you only score 41, as Wisconsin did against Michigan this year.

The question is why?

“If I could answer that, there wouldn’t be a problem,” Taylor said after Wisconsin squeaked out a 45-40 win over Nebraska.

Well, its certainly not turnovers, as Wisconsin hasn’t turned the ball over more than 12 times in the games they’ve lost. Its not offensive rebounding, either, as the Badgers aren’t a team designed to attack the offensive glass. What they are supposed to be able to do is to drain the shot clock offensively, either finding an open look out of their set or putting the ball in Jordan Taylor’s hands and allowing him to create

Only, in their five losses, those open looks aren’t coming as often. And when they do, they aren’t going down. Wisconsin is shooting just 33.6% from the floor in those losses, a number that drops all the way to 23.9% from three.

That right there is the problem.

And its not just Ben Brust. Its Jared Berggren and Josh Gasser, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz.

When Wisconsin isn’t able to shoot the ball from the perimeter they are unable to make teams pay for doubling Jordan Taylor off of ball screens and sending help when he tries to attack off the dribble. In a 50-45 win over Nebraska, Taylor went without an assist. It wasn’t because he didn’t pass the ball willingly, its because those passes didn’t result in made shots.

“It just means there might have been some looks that we had that might not have gone down,” Ryan said. “Its not like he wasn’t trying. He was drawing plenty of attention.”

You want to solve Wisconsin’s consistency issues? You want the Badgers to start getting their name thrown in the mix for the Big Ten title and Jordan Taylor to start putting up the kind of numbers he did last season?

Than find a way to get his supporting cast to start knocking down jump shots consistently.

Until then, the Badgers are going to be an unpredictable, up-and-down team.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”


Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.


Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.


Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.


At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.


Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.