By ZACH HEILPRIN
MADISON – The University of Wisconsin pulled away in the second half to beat UW-Platteville 80-51 in exhibition action Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.
Player of the game: Ben Brust
Brust, like the rest of the Badgers, warmed up in the second half where he scored 14 of his team-high 20 points. The senior was just 2-of-6 in the first half, including going 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. But after the break he was 4-of-5 overall and 2-for-3 from three-point range. He was also aggressive in getting to the hole and converted all six of his free throw attempts. Brust played a big role in putting Platteville away. The Badgers led 46-40 with 13:29 left in the game but used a 26-7 run to take a 72-47 lead. In the run, Brust accounted for 10 points, including a pair of long-range shots.
“Early on maybe some nerves but it’s why we play these games. It’s why everyone does these games,” Brust said of the slow start. “We needed to get out there and play because we need to work on some stuff. And you see that first-hand out here. We’ll go back and we’ll go through it and we’ll learn from it and get better. And that’s why we play these games.”
The good –
Wisconsin had plenty of opportunities on the offensive glass and they took advantage of them, hauling in 11 rebounds on that end. That included five by true freshman Nigel Hayes. The 6-foot-8 Hayes – who was the first freshmen off the bench -- muscled his way inside early for the Badgers, grabbing four of the boards in the first half. But he also had a few jitters playing in front of the Kohl Center faithful that he blamed on an easy missed layup off of one of the rebounds.
“Being a freshman, being out there for the first time in front of all the fans, being out there in the game it was a little uncomfortable,” Hayes said afterward. “A little nervousness in me, which the reason I missed the early layup. I settled down, got a more comfortable and just realized it’s still playing basketball. It just went from 5,000 fans (in high school) to maybe 14 or 15,000. So it’s the same game, (I’ve) just got to get out there, be comfortable and have fun.”
Bo Ryan was impressed with the Ohio-native’s night – racking up the six rebounds along with eight points, two assists and a pair of steals in 14 minutes of action.
“When you look at the stats and say, ‘Wow’. For that number of minutes to get that many rebounds. I don’t’ care if you’re playing a team of three 7-footers or a team of 6-5 to 6-8 guys,” Ryan said. “He positioned himself well. He’s strong. He finished… He showed that he’s here for a reason. He’s not going away anytime soon.”
Protecting the ball:
It should come as no surprise that the Badgers were able to limit their turnovers – it’s a staple of a Bo Ryan team. Against Platteville, the Badgers committed six turnovers, four in the second half.
The player that stood out the most was Traevon Jackson, who said during the team’s media day earlier this month that a focus of his offseason was to cut down on the number of turnovers. He accomplished that goal – turning the ball over once against the Pioneers while dishing out seven assists. It was a good start but Ryan is looking for more of the same going forward.
“Obviously if you look at his numbers he did a pretty good job,” Ryan said. “But the heat will pickup with some guys that are really going to get after him. Longer wingspans and a little quicker. Tonight he did a real good job. I’d just like to see him do that every night.”
The end of the first half
Wisconsin got out to a 15-point lead with 7:26 left in the first half. Then a series of missed shots and poor possessions allowed for the Pioneers to close the gap. It wasn’t easy as they did hit a number of contested looks late in the shot clock but the overall flow of the game seemed to get choppy around the same point in the game. Ryan said it wasn’t unexpected.
“We make a move and then I start putting other guys in. And then you lose some continuity. It happens,” Ryan said. “In this instance we were able to get it back. I’m still trying to find out who’s ready to grab the minutes. Every coach is at this time. You’ll see a lot of this in these exhibition games…In the second half I thought we settled into a pretty good grove. And looked better playing off one another. We’ll get our scrimmage in (on Saturday) and then we’ll start for real.”
Stat of the game:
The shooting percentage overall for Platteville in the second half. The Pioneers shot 50-percent (11-22) in the first half, including 57-percent from three-point range. It allowed them to stay in the game and they trailed by just seven points at halftime.
“It was all right,” UW coach Bo Ryan said of the perimeter defense in the first half. “They hit tough shots. There were hands in faces. Some quick releases. That’s going to happen. I’m used to it, especially in Division 3, they’ve got so many good perimeter shooters. It’s a little bit of different type lineups you face. They are going to be some 3’s that are made and I told our guys that. We just played through it.”
Things changed after the break and Wisconsin was able to hold Platteville to just 3-of-8 from beyond the arc and 7-of-26 overall in the second half.
The defense will continue to evolve through the early part of the season as the Badgers work with new players – something junior Josh Gasser expected.
“Defensively, the first half, we did not play very well,” said Gasser, who played his first game at the Kohl Center since March of 2012 after missing last year with a torn ACL. “I kind of expected that but just having such a young team these early games are really going to help us out that way. You got a young group of guys and myself coming back from injury. We just need to get more reps defensively. Feel each other out a little bit. That’s something we definitely need to improve upon the way.”
Quote of the game:
“These guys are going to be pretty good. When you have one of the best coaches in country leading these guys. They’re students of the game and they’re taking the approach that we’re taking. Just keep getting better every day. This program is going to be really, really good. And you have great upperclassmen leading the way and setting the example from day one. I know I’d like to have (Hayes). That’s a fact.”
- Platteville head coach Jeff Gard on Bo Ryan and Badgers freshman Nigel Hayes
Odds and ends:
- All 15 players that suited up got in the game. While Ryan said he is still working through his rotation, junior Duje Dukan was the first player off the bench, with Hayes not too far behind. Sophomore guard George Marshall and freshman guard Bronson Koenig also played a double-digit number of minutes.
- The team announced prior to the game that sophomore Zak Showalter and junior Jordan Smith would both redshirt this season.
Showalter saw action in 22 games last year but with nine guards on the roster it made sense to take a year to get better while not using up his eligibility.
“When I looked at the guard numbers this year, it just makes sense to save this year of eligibility,” Showalter said. “I asked Coach Ryan what he thought of it and he said it seemed like a good idea,” Showalter said in a university release. “I think I’ll be able to contribute a lot more my fifth year than I would this season.”
Both players will continue to practice with the team.
Wisconsin will open the non-conference portion of their schedule with a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D., on Nov. 8 to play St. Johns.
Listen to Zach Heilprin every weekday on “The Jump Around” at ESPNWisconsin.com, and follow him on Twitter: @zachheilprin