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Wisconsin vs. Siena preview: Badger recovery starts on defense

Will Wisconsin's adjustments following a stunning opener result in a soothing victory?

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

One team's embarrassing loss was expected, the other's was shocking. In either case, both Siena and Wisconsin are looking for the first win of the season after less than ideal debuts.

Bo Ryan's Badgers (0-1) are seeking a big turnaround on both sides of the ball after looking out of sorts in a season-opening loss to Western Illinois. They play host to the Saints (0-1) at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center as part of the 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, an event which continues with games at Madison Square Garden next weekend in addition to Wisconsin's home tilt against Prairie View A&M on November 25.

Nigel Hayes carried Wisconsin early on Friday, but his jump shot failed him in the second half with very little support around him. By the time Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown got in a rhythm late in the game, the team's lack of defense had already put them in a big hole against the Leathernecks.

Wisconsin allowed Western Illinois to hit 7-of-9 (77.8%) three-pointers, set up by some easy penetration from the perimeter. Ryan, Koenig and others insist the Badgers' footwork must improve to get better results in game two.

Meanwhile, the Saints fell to No. 5 Duke on the same night despite a fantastic all-around game by junior Marquis Wright. The 6-foot guard scored 20 points in 25 minutes while adding seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Three other Saints joined Wright in double-figures scoring, though three players also fouled out.

Siena showed they can score against a quality opponent, but don't let the 72 points against the Blue Devils fool you. It was a 79-possession game. This might be a good comparison for next weekend, when the Badgers could face off against the Blue Devils again the 2K Classic final if everything breaks nicely.

In its third season under former Gary Williams disciple Jimmy Patsos, Siena is predicted to finish fifth in the MAAC this year. The Saints lost two seniors from its 11-20 team a year ago, but returns a strong junior class that includes Wright and 6-8 forward Brett Bisping. Bisping averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore in 2013-14 when Siena won the College Basket Invitational tournament to conclude the season, but he took a medical redshirt last season due to a foot injury.

While Siena doesn't quite have the size in its starting lineup that Western Illinois used to bother UW's interior game, the Badger front court will still be challenged to atone for it's previous outing.

Redshirt freshman Ethan Happ must play better defensively so he can stay on the floor. Happ only attempted three field goals and was limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble. It's clear that the youth movement will continue its trial by fire early in the season. Freshmen Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson combined to log 38 minutes in their first collegiate games in Ryan's (barely) eight-man rotation. Let's hope their touch around the basket is a little bit better against Siena.