There are few rules more important to the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team than getting the ball into the low post during as many offensive possessions as possible.
Guards or forwards can touch the post, which is the area closest to the basket, with dribble drives or they can pass the ball into a teammate who is in the post. Myriad possibilities can occur from there, such as getting an open look at a basket from close range or kicking the ball out to an open teammate on the perimeter for a 3-pointer.
More often than not, nothing good happens when they don't touch the post. UW's 61-50 loss to Ohio State Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, was a great example.
"When you get inside the teeth of a defense, everything breaks down. But we weren't doing that," UW senior guard Trevon Hughes said.
The No. 18 Badgers (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten Conference) got a refresher course from coach Bo Ryan as they prepared to play improving Michigan (10-7, 3-2) tonight in a Big Ten Conference game at the Kohl Center.
Their problems began after 6-foot-10 junior forward Jon Leuer went down with a wrist injury. During the two games without their best post player and second-leading scorer, 52.5 percent of the Badgers' shots were 3-pointers. With Leuer in the lineup, 41.2 percent of their shots were 3-pointers in conference games.
Making matters worse, the Badgers made just 30.8 percent of their 3-pointers during the past two games because most of their attempts did not follow a kick-out pass from the post. That's what sets up the highest percentage of successful perimeter shots.
UW got away with it playing against Northwestern's zone and earned a 60-50 win last Wednesday night in Evanston, Ill., because the Badgers scored 17 second-chance points. They had no such luck against the stronger Buckeyes.
"We were more disciplined (against Northwestern) and it showed in the turnovers and the offensive rebounding and all that. It all ended up working in our favor," UW sophomore guard Jordan Taylor said. "At Ohio State, we got down and came back and got down again. I think we panicked at times."
It's not a surprise that, without Leuer on the floor, the guards are doing the majority of the scoring. Hughes, Taylor and senior guard Jason Bohannon combined for 45 points against Northwestern and 34 against Ohio State.
"We're out on the perimeter and I think as you get more tired you might give in to a jump shot because it's the easiest play to make," said Taylor, who was 0-of-5 from beyond the arc against Ohio State.
"But there might be a better play by getting by your guy and finding an open shooter. As a guard, the natural instinct if you're open is to shoot it. But that might not be the best play at the time. So I just think that you have to keep attacking."
Michigan will play with four guards on the floor most of the time so the Badgers know they could promote a more open game if they aren't careful. One way to do that is to miss a bunch of 3s and have long rebounds turn into layups the other way.
The Ohio State loss was an eye-opener for the Badgers because they had players open in the post. They just didn't get the ball enough.
"I know I missed a few open guys," Taylor said. "That's part of growing up and getting better. You just have to keep getting better and learn to keep teams on their heels for 40 minutes as opposed to the first five minutes of the two halves."