NUsports.com Special Contributor Skip Myslenski chatted with the 'Cats prior to Tuesday's practice and offers up his preview of Wednesday night's game against Wisconsin.
* The question had to be asked and here is why. Through the last two months, ever since that day Drew Crawford was shut down for the season, the 'Cats have confronted and combatted adversity. They did that willfully through much of that stretch. But then, last Sunday against Illinois, they were a half-step slow on defense and they were often taken out of their offense and they were eventually beaten by 21. So we had to wonder if, just maybe, their well-of-responses was running dry, if they were at last beginning to suffer from (for the lack of a better term) adversity fatigue.
"I don't know. I don't know," said their coach, Bill Carmody, who at least entertained that idea. "We played decently against Ohio State and lost. Then we didn't play very well against Illinois. So I think it's really too early to tell. I don't think their physically worn out. Maybe mentally a little bit, a little tired, but probably just because we're talking about it a lot. Maybe Sobo (point Dave Sobolewski) is a little tired. Maybe Reggie (guard Reggie Hearn) is a little tired. But those guys can overcome that. It's the young guys that I'm worried about."
"I don't think we're ever done," demurred Hearn, dismissing that notion as inconceivable. "Sobo tweeted after the Ohio State game, 'We'll fight with whoever's left.' That's a very simple statement, but it's a very true statement. We have a lot of fighters on our team. There's only, what, five conference games left on the schedule and the Big Ten tourney. So this is the home stretch and we're going to give it all that we've got."
"Us seniors, we have a lot left to give," echoed guard Alex Marcotullio. "We're not ready to go down yet. Same with the young guys. We're all ready and willing to fight. It's just a test of our will, like it has been all year."
* This is not an idle concern for next up on the 'Cat schedule is No. 19 Wisconsin, which visits Welsh-Ryan Wednesday night. "It's a normal Wisconsin team. They're tough and physical," is how Sobolewski describes this challenge.
"They're a hard-nosed, physical team," says Marcotullio, who is then asked how one combats the Badgers.
"Mentally, you have to be tough," he says here. "They're a very mentally-tough team and you have to come back at them with the same mental toughness at both ends of the floor. They're going to play their game, play the way they want to play. So we're going to have to do the same thing and make them play our game as well."
"Most of his (Badger coach Bo Ryan's) games are sort of grind-it-out games, not just against ours," concludes Carmody. "That's probably pretty good for us now at this stage. . . But they're playing very, very well. It's a veteran team. That's the thing that's scariest. They have three seniors and a junior starter. That scares me."
* Clearly, then, the 'Cats well-of-responses must be replete to take on a foe that is tough and experienced, physical and mentally-strong and playing their best ball of the season. That is also a necessity if they are to crack the Badgers's gnarly defense, which is holding opponents to a Big Ten best 56.2 points-per-game. "Their strength," Sobolewski says when asked the key to that defense. "They're a strong team, they're physical, they'll be bumping all our cuts. We've got to make sure we don't get out of what we do. We need to keep cutting hard and make sure their bumps don't effect our back door cuts. . . We just have to stay within our stuff and run through our stuff much better than we did this past Sunday (against the Illini). If we cut hard enough and cut in the rights spots, we'll be OK."
"I think they're just very disciplined," Hearn will say of that defense. "I've watched them and noticed a few different things that they do. But overall they're just very disciplined. They don't seem to make a lot of mistakes. So to beat them we're going to have to stay disciplined ourselves on offense, limit our turnovers and hit our open shots."
And what about the bumping Sobolewski mentioned?
"It's something a lot of teams try to do because a lot of them are scared of our back cuts, things like that," says Hearn. "We just have to be able to push through the cuts and stay in the offense. We can't them get us out of we want to do."
Is that a physical challenge or a mental challenge?
"It's a combination of both," Hearn concludes. "Obviously, there's the physical factor. This is the Big Ten. You've got a lot of strong guys in the league. But from the mental aspect, if they bump you a couple times, you can't let that get to you. You can't retaliate, things like that."
To recap, then: The 'Cats must ignore the bumps and cut through them, the 'Cats must retain their discipline and stay in their offense. The 'Cats, in sum, must overcome any adversity fatigue they might be feeling and drink deeply from their well-of- responses.
* Then there is this, which is not unimportant in the wake of their shooting struggles against the Illini: the Badgers like to run snipers off the three-point line and are holding opponents to just 29.9 percent shooting from that distance, which is second best in the Big Ten.
* Here is one last reason the 'Cats need a replete well-of-responses, a toughness in their mentality, against the Badgers. "I think they're a good defensive team also because of their offense," Carmody says. "They take their time with their offense, take their time, and that puts a little more pressure on each opponent shot. If they go up 8-2, 12-5, or something like that, and you run down the court with them and shoot a fast shot and miss, then they come down and take 30 seconds, it becomes wearisome and a little more stressful for shooters."