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Why Greg Gard isn’t worried about the Badgers 3-point defense vs. Nebraska

The Badgers have allowed the second-worst three-point percentage in the Big Ten at 36.2 percent.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Wisconsin Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers are headed to face off against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Thursday, looking to hand their conference opponent its first loss at home in conference play.

Standing at 15-6 on the season, Nebraska is 5-5 in conference play, but all five wins have come at home, while the losses have all been on the road.

Overall, the Cornhuskers have lost one game at home, an 89-60 defeat at the hands of the then-No. 15 Creighton Blue Jays, while winning all 13 of their other games at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Nebraska shoots the ball better at home, scoring 80.6 points per game on 46.2 percent efficiency from the field and 37.2 percent from three, while scoring just 70.3 points a contest on the road, while shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from home.

The three-point shooting is a clear improvement for the Cornhuskers at home and is reflected in their best player, as Keisei Tominaga improves from 32.4 percent from distance on the road to 39.5 percent from three at home, while also seeing a 7.4 percent increase in field goal percentage (40 to 47.4 percent).

Meanwhile, Wisconsin has struggled to defend the three in regards to percentages, allowing opponents to hit 36.2 percent of their three-point attempts, the second-highest mark in the Big Ten.

Is head coach Greg Gard worried about the team’s three-point defense? Not really.

While the Badgers do give up a higher percentage of threes per game, they allow the fifth-least three-point attempts on a per-game basis in the Big Ten at 19.5

Gard revealed that the team’s philosophy this year has been prioritizing the attempts, rather than percentages, to force teams to live in the paint more.

“We look more at the attempts we’re giving up than the percentage,” Gard said ahead of Thursday’s matchup. “So, we’re trying to minimize attempts. So, there’s two theories in three-point defense. One is run them off the line where they can’t get shots. Take away attempts. And the second component is do you impact the averages, the numbers? So we’ve gone back and forth. Some teams we don’t run off the line as much, aren’t quite as aggressive with as long as we contest shots.

“Nebraska is a team you want to minimize attempts. So I’m not as concerned about percentages as I am about trying to minimize attempts and not even let them get shots off. So that’s typically how we’ve traditionally guarded. If you look at conference stats, typically we’re in the bottom of the number of three-point attempts given up, [and] our percentage against us is a little higher. But in terms of the amounts that we give up is lower because of how we play, certain actions.”

However, how are the Badgers effectively trying to minimize the percentages as well, especially against a tough Nebraska team with good shooters in Keisei Tominaga (37.2 percent from three) and C.J. Wilcher (46.3 percent from three)?

“You try not to make mistakes on screens,” Gard said. “You try not to let Wilcher and Tominaga get loose on you. Rienk Mast, his numbers, home and road, are as different as anybody’s, so you try to minimize mistakes first of all in those situations.”

“And then what are you doing on your offensive end, too? Are you having good possessions where they’re having to work and they can’t get into a rhythm of easy offense or defensive possessions that relay or parlay into better offensive possessions for them? So there’s an ebb of flow of the offense and defensive rhythm that are connected that you’re trying to make them have to guard you and work on the defensive end. So hopefully it impacts their effectiveness and the rhythm they’re in offensively.”

The Badgers will face the challenge head-on when they play the Cornhuskers on Thursday evening, beginning a tough week that’ll end with a home matchup against the No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday.

There have already been a pair of Top 10 upsets this week with the No. 3 UNC Tar Heels and No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers losing on Tuesday. Can the Badgers avoid getting the same treatment?