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Breaking Out

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Bohannon shatters career high in points, Wisconsin's other guards chip in as Badgers bounce back to crush spiraling Hoosiers

MADISON, Wis. - Patience can be a virtue in sports, just like in life.

Jason Bohannon proved that Saturday in Wisconsin's 83-55 win over Indiana at the Kohl Center.  Three and a half years through an up-and-down career, Iowa's high school "Mr. Basketball" topped his recent string of strong performances with a bona fide breakout.

Bohannon shattered his career high in points with 30, including seven three-pointers.  That total probably would have been higher, had head coach Bo Ryan not mercifully pulled him with nearly five minutes left to save Indiana boss Tom Crean from further embarrassment.

Bohannon's previous career mark was 20 points, set at Northwestern a year ago and matched twice this season.  Saturday's was his fourth straight game with at least 15 points and, in case you haven't been paying attention, the Badgers haven't exactly been playing slouch teams lately.

Color Ryan impressed.

"He found the bottom of the net today and his teammates found him open," he said.

We've always known Bohannon can hit the three-ball when he's on.  The problem is, he's notoriously streaky (as many shooters are), and he never quite added another element to his offensive game.  As such, if his long shot just wasn't there in a given game, he often had nothing else to turn to.

This became particularly apparent in the Badgers' first few games without Jon Leuer.  Opposing defenses wouldn't let Bohannon get open behind the three-point arc, which is where he would essentially pitch a tent and camp out during games.  Michigan and Purdue hounded him into poor shooting performances, and he finished with just three points in each of those contests.

That is slowly starting to change. 

Bohannon took five shots from inside the arc against Indiana and made four of them.  At least a couple were aggressive, driving layups, which is what guards are asked to do in Bo Ryan's swing offense, the ultimate 'versatility' system.  Bohannon has shown more confidence taking it to the hole in recent games, and Wisconsin's offense has benefited from his new approach.

Of course, his calling card will still be his often deadly shooting.  But it was important to see him arrive at 30 points with a combination of different shots.

It was fitting when Bohannon scored his 1,000th career point earlier this season on a free throw.  The 85 percent career free-throw shooter has done much of his damage from the charity stripe.  Equally fitting, perhaps, is that Bohannon - and fellow guard Trevon Hughes - reached another milestone on the day Bohannon set his personal scoring mark.  The tandem recorded their 100th win as Badgers Saturday.  Here's guessing that accomplishment means a lot more to a team player like "J-Bo" than the 30 points does.

Ryan certainly thinks so.  Not only did he praise Bohannon's defense first and foremost, he also suggested we might be looking at a player who's fully healthy for the first time at the college level.

"Defensively there's no question that he's improved," Ryan said.  "He guards shooters, he guards guys now that can put the ball on the floor.  He was nicked up there for a couple seasons that we didn't tell the media.  He had surgery and we didn't milk [the media] for sympathy.  He came back from those and now, defensively, he's pretty good.  He's stayed true to the rehabilitation and to handling the injuries that he did have."

While Ryan credited his players, Crean gave props to his rival.

"It's amazing how [Ryan's] players just get better all the time," Crean said.  "It's just a microcosm of what they do.  He doesn't put them out there until they are ready.  They get an opportunity to get their feet wet, so to speak, and then he plays them.  They get glimpses of what they are capable of doing along the way and then they learn that that's what they have to do every time.  I think Jason is a great example of that."

With five games to play in a jam-packed Big Ten race, it looks like Wisconsin's "other" senior guard is hitting his stride at just the right time. 

-Jake Harris