(4) UW 86, EKU 61: Last word
By ZACH HEILPRIN
MADISON – The University of Wisconsin is 12-0 for the first time in 98 years. That’s after an 86-61 victory on Saturday against Eastern Kentucky. It’s the best start to a season in the modern era of the program, and the last time they began the season 12-0 was 1915-1916.
Player of the game: Ben Brust
For a second straight game the senior guard was the Badgers leading scorer. Brust went for 20 points – 15 of which game from beyond the arc. With a 5 of 8 performance on Saturday, Brust is now shooting 44.7 percent from distance. He added six rebounds while playing a team-high 32 minutes. Brust’s first two 3-pointers started a 24-5 run that turned a one-point Eastern Kentucky lead into a Wisconsin advantage of 31-13.
The good: The freshmen
It was a breakout game for Nigel Hayes. The forward scored a career-high 17 points, including going 13 of 17 from the line. And his classmate, Bronson Koenig, played well against a Colonels’ team that was forcing 18 turnovers per game coming in.
“Doesn’t keep me happy to sit there and look at 11 turnovers,” UW coach Bo Ryan said. “But the way they force people into turnovers, where we really got some help was with what Bronson Koenig did with the ball. He got us out of a lot of jams, he found open people.
“I still don’t like the rule in the NCAA that if you hit a guy with the pass and he is fouled and goes to the free throw line, you should get an assist. Of those 17 points that Nigel (Hayes) got at the free throw line, how many of those were the result of a pass from Bronson? I didn’t mean to rant about the rules, but there aren’t too many people that can break down what they do defensively the way he (Bronson) did today.”
The bad: The early turnovers
Like he did against Milwaukee on Wednesday, Traevon Jackson had a tough first few minutes. After assisting Sam Dekker on the first basket of the day, the junior point guard turned the ball over on the next possession, which was followed up by a turnover from Frank Kaminsky. And then Jackson got called for a foul. Ryan had seen enough at pulled Jackson with 17:40 left. It was the quickest Jackson had been pulled this year and Koenig took advantage of the opportunity. Jackson only turned the ball over once more and finished with seven points and five rebounds.
Stat of the game:60.5
That’s the Badgers shooting percentage for the game. It’s a season-high and the best since hitting 62 percent against North Dakota on Nov. 16, 2010. Saturday’s game also saw them hit 60 percent of their 3-pointers – the third time they’ve hit that mark this year.
Quote of the game
“I think Wisconsin showed why it’s the fourth-ranked team in the country here today. They’re incredibly efficient at the offensive end and their defense is as disciplined a defense as I’ve ever seen. We’ve taken our group into very hostile settings over the last several years. Last year we went to West Virginia and Illinois—really competed with both of those teams. This year we’ve been to VCU where we went to overtime and we went to NC State where it was a three-point game with about five minutes to go. Our team has really competed in this type of venue, but we’ve never run across a team like (Wisconsin).
- Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer
Odds and ends:
- The 12-0 start is the best since the modern era began in 1946. The Badgers did have two seasons (1911-12, 1913-14) where they went 15-0.
- The 12 straight wins are the second most in program history in the modern era. The 2006-2007 team won 17 games.
- Junior Frank Kaminsky had 13 points. Wisconsin is 13-0 when he scores in double figures.
- Members of the Wisconsin football team were recognized at halftime for all of their academic and athletic awards.
- A majority of the in-state football recruits that are committed to Wisconsin in the class of 2014 attended the first half of the game.
Due to final exams and the holidays the Badgers won’t play again until Dec. 28 when they host Prairie View A&M. It’ll be their final non-conference game.
Listen to Zach Heilprin every weekday on “The Jump Around” at ESPNWisconsin.com, and follow him on Twitter: @zachheilprin