GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers attempt to keep their perfect season intact on Saturday afternoon, as they begin a season-long, four-game homestand with a matchup versus the Marquette Golden Eagles.
It's been a relatively slow start to the season by Marquette's lofty standards, as it is a rather modest 5-3. The Golden Eagles made a run to the championship game of last weekend's Wooden Legacy following wins over Cal State Fullerton (86-66) and George Washington (76-60), but they fell short of the title with a 67-59 loss at the hands of San Diego State on Sunday.
Wisconsin has gradually crept up the national rankings in recent weeks thanks to several wins over top-notch competition. The Badgers made a statement in the first week of the season wit a 59-53 victory over nationally-ranked Florida, then after claiming the Cancun Challenge championship with wins over Saint Louis (63-57) and West Virginia (70-63), they captured an outstanding road victory over Virginia on Wednesday night, 48-38.
These intrastate rivals have met 119 times previously, with Wisconsin holding to a 64-55 advantage. Marquette has won four of the past six meetings, however, including a 60-50 decision at home nearly a year ago to the day on Dec. 8, 2012.
Even though there were nine lead changes in Marquette's latest contest, it never led by more than two points, and it lost control down the stretch en route to the eight-point loss to SDSU. On top of shooting just 42 percent from the field, it was hindered by 15 turnovers. The only player to net in double figures in the setback was Deonte Burton, who shot 6-of-8 from the floor for 15 points off the bench. It was a rare performance for the Golden Eagles, who score 71.0 points per game this season (8.0 points more than they allow), albeit on just 42.1 percent shooting from the field. Davante Gardner, despite coming off the bench in every game, is both the team's leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and rebounder (7.0 rpg). Jamil Wilson (10.5 ppg) and Todd Mayo (10.0 ppg) are the top threats out on the perimeter, although neither has made more than 32 percent of his 3-point attempts.
The Badgers' latest win certainly wasn't the prettiest, as they shot a lowly 28.8 percent from the floor, but they stepped up the defensive pressure by holding Virginia to only 23.4 percent en route to 10-point victory. With points coming at a premium, there weren't many noteworthy offensive performances. Josh Gasser led the way with 11 points, while Frank Kaminsky finished with nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Wisconsin's defensive effort this season has been stellar, as it allows just 63.1 points per game, but it is used to much more effective showings at the offensive end (.459 FG percentage, 73.6 ppg). All five starters average in double figures, led by Kaminsky's 15.0 points per game to go with his team-best 6.1 rebounds per contest. Sam Dekker (13.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Ben Brust (11.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) are also active on the glass, while Traevon Jackson (11.1 ppg) and Gasser (10.4 ppg) round out the deep squad.
While Marquette has been up-and-down this season, Wisconsin has been outstanding every step of the way, and returning to their home floor, the Badgers will take care of business against the Golden Eagles.