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Badgers big men seek redemption in massive challenge from Iowa's Luka Garza
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Badgers big men seek redemption in massive challenge from Iowa's Luka Garza

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It doesn’t get any easier for Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers.

After going over the gruesome footage from their humbling loss to Michigan, the two senior big men for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team quickly had to turn the page and begin preparing for the next challenge.

It’s another big one.

UW senior Nate Reuvers previews the Badgers' game against Iowa on Thursday at the Kohl Center.

Iowa’s Luka Garza may not be as large as 7-foot-1 freshman Hunter Dickinson, who dominated down the stretch in the Wolverines’ 67-59 victory over the Badgers on Sunday. But Garza, a national player of the year candidate, is more experienced and more relentless than Dickinson.

Garza leads the nation with 24.5 points per game heading into Thursday’s matchup between the No. 11 Hawkeyes (15-6, 9-5 Big Ten) and No. 21 Badgers (15-7, 9-6) at the Kohl Center.

The nation’s No. 1 offense is led by a player who has scored at least 30 points in 11 games since the start of the 2019-20 season.

“He’s really big, hard to get off the block,” Reuvers said. “The main thing is not letting him catch the ball deep, which is really hard to do. He’s really good using his body and he’s really good at making it look like you’re fouling him and getting those calls. It’s a lot of work. You’ve got to be digging in and making him catch that ball off (the block) so we can get some help so he’s not just getting the easy catch and score. It’s going to be a tough battle just to do that.”

UW found that out last season when Garza finished with 21 points and 18 rebounds to lead Iowa to a 68-62 win in the only meeting between the teams.

The Badgers held Garza to 6-for-17 shooting from the field, but he attempted 13 free throws and drew 12 of the 28 fouls called on UW.

“Just being physical with him from the start,” Potter said about the key to containing Garza, who is listed at 6-11, 265 pounds. “That’s obviously his game. He likes to be physical. But you’ve just got to match it. Because if you don’t match it, he’ll take advantage of it.

“You’ve just got to be physical from the start, understand that he’s going to be constantly looking for duck-ins and when he gets it inside, he’s going to pivot, he’s going to pump fake, he’s going to use his body, he’s going to try to bully you.

“That’s just the biggest thing — match his physicality, match his intensity and then when it comes to offensive rebounding, you’ve got to get a body but you’ve got to do a lot more than just box out.”

UW senior Micah Potter previews the game between the Badgers and Iowa on Thursday at the Kohl Center.

Reuvers and Potter learned that lesson the hard way in the loss to Michigan. Neither player had a rebound in a combined 40 minutes of action, but they did a solid job keeping Dickinson off the glass for the opening 33-plus minutes of the game.

Four of Dickinson’s five offensive rebounds came over a stretch of seven possessions late in the game. They led to nine second-chance points for the Wolverines, who overcame a 12-point halftime deficit.

UW coach Greg Gard gave credit to Dickinson while also admitting his big men could have done better in terms of technique.

“We watched what we didn’t do well in terms of driving with our hips and not using our upper body but really being physical with our lower body, initiating contact,” Gard said.

Iowa will take advantage if UW repeats those mistakes. The Hawkeyes are second in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding percentage, with Garza (62 offensive rebounds), 6-11 sophomore Jack Nunge (45) and 6-8 freshman Keegan Murray (37) leading the way.

Potter was asked what the biggest takeaway from the Michigan game was in terms of doing a better on the boards.

“Attack the ball,” he said. “In my personal opinion, boxing out is like 25 percent of rebounding. You can box out all you want, but if you don’t attack the ball and go get it, you’re never going to get a rebound. Boxing out is 25 percent and the other 75 percent is made up of tracking the ball — being able to read where it’s going to come off the rim — and then attacking it.

“If you try to just box someone out and take someone out of the game, you’re going to get zero rebounds. You’ve got to attack the ball.”


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