A return to Madison to take on a team they’ve dominated at the Kohl Center may be exactly what Wisconsin needs following a tough road loss.
Looking to bounce back after their Big Ten title hopes took a severe hit, the 14th-ranked Badgers seek their 12th straight win at home over Northwestern on Sunday.
With four games remaining, Wisconsin (19-7, 9-5) has fallen two games out of first place in the crowded Big Ten standings. Even the return of Jon Leuer this week wasn’t enough as it suffered its second loss in three games, dropping a 68-52 decision at Minnesota on Thursday.
The Badgers shot a season-low 30.5 percent and went almost 8 minutes without scoring in the second half. They were also outrebounded 41-28, giving up 14 offensive boards.
“We had a crappy week of practice, and it was all my fault,” said Trevon Hughes, who led Wisconsin with 19 points. “I was being a goofball in practice all week and that’s unacceptable. I messed up my leadership.”
Leuer, who missed nine games with a broken wrist, played for the first time since Jan. 9, coming off the bench to score four points. He shot 2 of 12 from the floor, missing his first six shots.
“He’ll find his mark,” coach Bo Ryan said. “That wasn’t Jon’s fault or anything that Jon wasn’t trying to do. He’s still a good player. He still means a lot to us.”
Leuer and the Badgers will try to recover at home where they are 14-1 this season. In their six conference victories at the Kohl Center, Wisconsin has won by an average of 14.8 points.
The Badgers haven’t lost consecutive games this season - the only Big Ten team yet to do so - and that streak figures to continue Sunday.
Wisconsin, which is holding opponents to 53.6 points per game in Madison, has been stifling Northwestern at the Kohl Center for more than a decade. The Badgers have won 11 in a row at home over the Wildcats since an 82-71 loss in 1996. In the 11 wins since, Northwestern has averaged 47.2 points and shot 36.9 percent.
Leuer did not play in Wisconsin’s 60-50 victory at Northwestern on Jan. 13, but averaged 13.5 points in two games against them last season.
Northwestern (17-9, 6-8) is trying to bounce back following an 81-70 loss at home Wednesday to Penn State, which came in winless in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions shot 56.8 percent, but the Wildcats were able to pull within one early in the second half before Penn State took control with an 11-3 run.
John Shurn and Michael Thompson each scored 17 for Northwestern, which was outrebounded 36-21.
“They just got too many easy looks against us,” coach Bill Carmody said. “At halftime we tried to change, but it didn’t seem like it was effective against them.”
Shurna is averaging a team-high 17.8 points and has been playing especially well on the road recently, averaging 22.0 points in the last four road contests while shooting 42.9 percent (15 of 35) from 3-point range. However, Northwestern has lost all four of those contests.
The Wildcats are 2-5 this season against Top 25 opponents, losing their last two such road contests.