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February 25, 2012

Turnovers key in UW losses

MADISON -- Only one team in the nation -- the Purdue Boilermakers -- turns the ball over on a smaller percentage of its possessions this season than Wisconsin.

The Badgers give the ball away on 15.3 percent of its possessions, or about once in 6.67 possessions. But the Boilermakers turn it over just 13.5 percent of the time, or one in 7.41 possessions.

On average, Division I teams commit a turnover on 20.5 percent of possessions, while Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association ranks last in the nation with a turnover rate of 29.4 percent.

In the first half Thursday night, Wisconsin gave the ball back to Iowa one-third of the time.

"We had 33 possessions in the first half, you turn it over 11," associate head coach Greg Gard said. "That hurts right there. Then you're climbing uphill the whole second half. Obviously we get back, we claw back into it … but that first half is what really killed us and put us in such a hole."

Iowa turned those 11 first-half turnovers into 12 points, and that made a big difference in what ended up being just a one-point game.

In its six Big Ten losses, turnovers have played a big role for Wisconsin. Over those six games -- two each against Iowa and Michigan State, one apiece against Ohio State and Michigan -- the Badgers have averaged 10.17 turnovers per game, with a high of 13 and a low of eight.

Over its nine Big Ten wins, Wisconsin has averaged 7.89 turnovers per contest, with a high of 12 (twice) and a low of one, last week against Penn State.

If you include nonconference games, the disparity decreases, with the Badgers averaging 9.63 turnovers per loss and 8.35 per victory.

But against the best teams in the Big Ten, the Badgers have given their opponents the ball too many times to expect to come away with a win.

"The turnovers put us in a hole that we didn't need to be in," Ryan Evans said. "That was definitely a significant part of the [Iowa] game. But you take away 11 turnovers, that 11 possessions. Probably about 14 points. That had a big influence on the game."

Compared with Iowa's 12 points off turnovers Thursday, UW allowed Penn State to score six off turnovers last week, while Michigan State got 16 points off turnovers in its Feb. 16 win at the Breslin Center.

Much like the turnover numbers, opponents have scored more points off turnovers in Wisconsin's six Big Ten losses than in its nine conference wins. In the losses, opponents have averaged 12 points per game off turnovers, compared with 8.56 per game in wins.

For the season, including nonconference games, opponents average 11.5 points on turnovers in UW losses, against eight points per Wisconsin win.

While the numbers certainly are not surprising, it makes for a fairly clear case. If the Badgers take care of the ball and do not turn it over, they better control the game and tend to be more likely to win.

"Bad decisions. That's why it's called a turnover," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "I don't think you can describe it any other way. Guys were anxious to make the great play rather than a good play. It's part of the game, but usually for us it's not. We need to make better decisions."


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