November 28, 2015

Though much of Wisconsin's success under Bo Ryan has been predicated by its play on the defensive end, the new-look Badgers haven't found that identity yet this season.

That doesn't bode well heading into a matchup with Buddy Hield and red-hot Oklahoma.

In a matchup between defensive-minded programs, Hield will try to continue his sizzling start Sunday when the seventh-ranked Sooners go after their 20th win in their last 21 home games.

Wisconsin has led the Big Ten in defense in nine of the past 13 seasons and ranked 12th nationally in defensive scoring (58.2) on the way to 36 wins and a national championship game appearance in 2014-15.

But without stars Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, the Badgers (4-2) have had a difficult time regaining that form this season. They've yet to hold an opponent under 64 points through six games after doing so in 27 of 40 last season. They're also allowing teams to shoot 46.8 percent from 3-point range.

Wisconsin let Prairie View A&M shoot 50.0 percent - including 7 of 10 from beyond the arc - in Wednesday's 85-67 home victory. The winless Panthers entered the contest with a 37.6 field-goal percentage while sinking only 14 of 62 (22.6) from long distance in their first four games.

"It's going to take awhile (to find an identity),'' junior guard Zak Showalter told the team's official website, "just because we have so many new guys who haven't played. Offensively and defensively, it's going to take time. But we're getting better. We've come a long ways already and we'll keep going."

The Badgers are going to have to find a way to contain Hield, who is averaging a nation-best 38.0 points per 40 minutes and also ranks among the national leaders with 25.3 per game.

The senior guard finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists in just 22 minutes in Tuesday's 96-63 home win over Incarnate Word. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, who considered leaving for the NBA after averaging 17.4 points last season, is shooting 56.8 percent from the field, 57.9 from 3 (11 for 19) and 88.2 (15 for 17) from the free-throw line.

''It's great to see him get the results he's getting," coach Lon Kruger said. "He knows, too, that going forward, he'll be a marked guy in other people's scouting reports. He's got to continue to work even harder to maintain that rate.''

The Badgers did a nice job against Hield last season, holding him to nine points on 2-of-11 shooting in a 69-56 win Nov. 28, 2014, in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament championship game.

Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard were also limited to a combined 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting in that contest. They teamed for 22 points and 15 rebounds Tuesday at the Lloyd Noble Center.

"This is another test for us,'' Showalter said, "and I'm excited."

Oklahoma (3-0) ranked 11th nationally with a 38.6 defensive field-goal percentage en route to 24 wins last season. With four starters back, the club has picked up where it left off by holding opponents to a 34.1 mark overall and 19-of-79 (24.1 percent) shooting from 3-point range.

The Sooners, ranked their highest since 2008-09, will have to keep watch on Bronson Koenig. The guard averages a team-high 17.3 points while hitting 15 of 36 (41.7 percent) from deep.

Wisconsin has won four of seven all-time meetings, splitting two in Norman.

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