MADISON, Wis. - When it comes to basketball, New Years' Eve 2011 was a day to forget for the Badgers. The Badgers were No. 11 and coming off a resounding win over Big Ten newcomer Nebraska, and welcomed the middling Iowa Hawkeyes to the Kohl Center. The Badgers then proceeded to shoot 3-of-28 from behind the arc, and fell to the upstart Hawkeyes 72-65 in Madison for the first time in years.
But even though they suffered a tough loss to the Hawkeyes earlier in the year, the Badgers were careful not to use the word ‘revenge' when talking about their Thursday night rematch with Iowa.
"I've been around too long," head coach Bo Ryan said after practice Tuesday. "I know that (revenge) doesn't make you play better. Because if you're worried about that part of it you're not worrying about what you need to take care of.
"You've got 30 some games. Can you imagine in the NBA if every time someone had beaten you, you talk about a revenge game?"
Thursday night's game with Iowa might just be another game to Ryan, but sophomore guard Josh Gasser said he gets a little extra motivation from games like this, even if it's not ‘revenge' in the true sense of the word.
"Yeah definitely," Gasser told reporters Tuesday. "They exposed us a little bit, and obviously we didn't play our best game when they came down here, and kind of set a tone for the Big Ten (season) that we didn't want.
"We think we're back on track here, and ready to take it to them again. I wouldn't say ‘revenge' but we're trying to get a win against a team that obviously beat us before, so that just makes it a little sweeter."
But what do the Badgers have to do if they want to get another big road win? Make shots this time around, for one thing. The Badgers' paltry shooting against the Hawkeyes last time gave Iowa extra chances for transition baskets. Several missed three-point shots by Wisconsin produced a lot of long rebounds, which the Hawkeyes used to get a numbers advantage and score quickly. It's a problem that the Badgers hope to have corrected by Thursday, according to Gasser.
"Obviously shots not falling is one thing, beyond that, just transition at both ends," Gasser said of the Badgers' late-December struggles. "They transitioned pretty well on us and we played pretty poorly. It's definitely something we're going to work on for this game.
"If we knock down those shots they probably don't get as many transition buckets. But at the same time shots aren't always going to fall, so you've got to find other ways to stop them."
We'll soon see if the Badgers can correct their past mistakes, and steal a win back from the Hawkeyes on the road. The Badgers play Iowa at 8:00 p.m. CST Thursday, with the game set to air on ESPN2.