IOWA CITY, Iowa - Zach Bohannon is a big believer in University of Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan's philosophy that all games are created equal.
At least to a certain degree.
Bohannon said Saturday's Big Ten Conference matchup between the Badgers (13-4, 4-0 Big Ten) and Iowa (12-5, 1-3) is like any other on UW's schedule even though he grew up about 35 miles north of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Marion.
But in the next breath, the redshirt junior admitted it was pure torture to watch UW lose to the Hawkeyes twice last season while he was sitting out as a transfer from Air Force.
"To be honest," he said, "it did kill."
There's another reason this might not be just another game for Bohannon: There's a better-than-usual chance that he'll get some playing time.
Sophomore reserve center Frank Kaminsky was poked in the left eye in the first half of UW's 64-59 win over Indiana on Tuesday night and sat out Thursday's practice. Kaminsky did not make the trip to Iowa City and will miss Saturday's game, which may force Ryan to get creative when it comes time to give starter Jared Berggren some rest.
Kaminsky played only 3 minutes against Indiana. When Berggren went to the bench, Ryan used a smaller lineup that included Sam Dekker, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans in the frontcourt.
Ryan said he was happy with that group's production.
"Yeah, because they played hard," Ryan said. "They were extremely competitive, and if you're that you can make up for a lot of deficiencies."
The 6-foot-8 Bohannon took Kaminsky's place with the starters and top reserves during Thursday's practice and could be in line for an expanded role against Iowa.
It's well-documented how Gordy Bohannon, the father of Zach and former UW athlete Jason Bohannon, was a former quarterback at Iowa. Zach Bohannon has felt a little bit like a backup quarterback during his first season with the Badgers because he prepares for every game not knowing if Ryan is going to call his number.
Bohannon has played 54 minutes overall and just one - 1:03, to be exact - in Big Ten play. He joked that he sent subliminal messages during a game against Marquette on Dec. 8 and got in for a four-minute stretch during the second half.
Ryan said earlier this week that he likes how Bohannon is always ready to compete, and Bohannon's teammates say they have confidence in him when he's on the court.
"You've got to stay positive, stay ready, stay focused," said Berggren, who remembers the days earlier in his career when he didn't know when his next playing time would come. "You never know when Coach is going to call your name. .
"It can be a challenge, but he's definitely up to it. He's been working hard in practice and showing what he's capable of. I definitely feel confident if Coach decides to put him in. I feel confident that he can come in and contribute."
Bohannon expects Carver-Hawkeye Arena to be louder than usual Saturday because the 20-year anniversary of Chris Street's death will be recognized during a ceremony at halftime. Bohannon was a toddler at the time of Street's passing but is well aware of the impact he had on the Iowa program and even played in memorial basketball tournaments in Street's hometown of Indianola, Iowa.
"It's going to be a tough environment, just like Assembly Hall (in Indiana) was," Bohannon said. "It's going to be one of those games where we're going to play against us, not worry about the opponent and what they do but more about what we do and hopefully be successful."
Bohannon said he'll be ready if called upon.
"It's not that big of a thing to play at Iowa. It's more of a thing just to play, because that's what I came here for. I came here to play basketball," Bohannon said.
"I know it's Iowa and people want to make it more than it is, but I'm just looking at it, for me, just to get a team win."
The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
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