On Tuesday afternoon, head coach Greg Gard and Wisconsin’s big man duo of Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter spoke to the media. It was clear there was a main focus for all involved. Rebounding was the main topic, which fed into attempting to stop the probable Naismith Player of the Year in Luka Garza. To round things out, putting together a full 40-minute contest was also discussed.
Here is what each had to say in their conversations with the media.
To start, the main discussion was rebounding. In the contest with Michigan on Sunday, the Badgers struggled on the glass with Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers grabbing a combined total of zero boards. When asked what Gard noticed on film he had this to say as they prep for a strong rebounding team in Iowa.
“It’s always a point of emphasis. We watch technique, we watch what we didn't do well... a lot of that credit goes to Hunter Dickinson and the others that we're able to secure those but some of it was us not doing what we were supposed to do from a rebounding physicality standpoint.”
After that, the discussion continued with Reuvers and Potter, specifically how them playing at the same time does not seem to work well with what Wisconsin wants to do. Gard mentioned that the lineup was not in their best interest.
“It’s largely predicated on what the other team is doing. We’re not going to see a lot of teams that play a traditional two big lineup. Analytically, the numbers showed us that it was not in our best interest whether it was points per possession, defensive points per possession, rebounding percentage. Everything points to us being better with a more mobile lineup.”
After that, Gard was asked about the Badgers struggle of putting together a full 40 minutes throughout the season. Against Michigan, the Badgers played a strong 20 in the first half but struggled in the second.
“I think it’s something we’ve been searching for all year. Even back to non-conference, consistency was always something we were searching for. Specifically offensively. I think that’s where we really have been searching. We haven’t found that rhythm consistently. We’re searching and we’re working at it.”
Game notes: No. 3 Michigan 67, No. 21 Wisconsin #Badgers 59— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 15, 2021
The men’s basketball team looked amazing for 20 minutes and dreadful for the other 20. Shockingly, playing only half a game against a team like Michigan was a pretty bad strategy. https://t.co/ypYADElG3Z pic.twitter.com/Sc4QLjREpw
After Gard spoke to the media the two bigs, Micah Potter and Nate Ruevers, also spoke. To start, Potter was of course asked about rebounding and what they could have done better against Michigan.
“Attack the ball... in my opinion boxing out is like 25% of rebounding. You can box out all you want but if you don’t attack the ball you aren’t going to get a rebound. The other 75% is tracking the ball and attacking it. If you just try to box out you’re going to get zero rebounds.”
The rebounding conversation continued, this time on the likes of Luka Garza who has dominated the glass this season, and how the Badgers can attempt to slow him down.
“Just being physical from the start. That’s his game, he likes to be physical. You just gotta match it. If you don’t match it he will take advantage of you... the biggest thing is to match his physicality.”
In the conversation with Reuvers, Garza was also one of the main topics. When asked a similar question Reuvers added this.
“He’s really tough, big, and hard to get off the block. He’s really good at using his body. We have to make sure he’s catching it further off the block to get some additional help but it’s going to be a challenge.”
Later on, Potter and Reuvers were also asked about the struggles of putting together a full 40 minutes. When asked about what was preventing them from putting together a full 40 minutes, the duo had this to say.
“Mental toughness. It’s as simple as that. No excuses, we just have to be mentally tougher and stay mentally locked in... mentally we just have to be locked in for a full 40 minutes. We have to be able to react to taking a punch.”
Reuvers added something similar.
“I don’t know exactly. You could say being locked in, wanting it more, playing hard. There’s a lot of games here where it’s a couple of possessions here and there. It’s finishing. The last two minutes is usually what you play for, especially in these big games. We’d rather have it happen now than later as we get into March.”
In each of the conversations with Potter, Reuvers, and Gard the theme was once again the same. Rebounding will be a key for the rest of the season, but mental toughness and finishing games seemed to be on the forefront of everyone’s mind. With five contests left, four of them against projected tournament teams, the focus and finishing will have to start now if the Badgers are hoping to elevate their game before March arrives.