Wisconsin 89, Yale 61: Last shots

MADISON – The University of Wisconsin had a weekend full of taming Bulldogs. They opened their season on Friday against South Carolina State, defeating them 85-50. On Sunday, the Bulldogs of Yale came to the Kohl Center and were turned away by score of 89-61.

Ethan Happ registered another double-double for Wisconsin, but also had a bit of an injury scare and continued woes at the free-throw line for the Badgers. Khalil Iverson stepped up to lead Wisconsin in scoring with 17 points after not attempting a shot on Friday night.

Yale got a strong performance from forward Blake Reynolds. He finished the night with 14 points on a very efficient six-of-eight shooting. Yale falls to 0-2 on the season.

Here are 14 last shots for D’Mitrik Trice’s 14 points scored on the evening.

1. Wisconsin has shown in both games this season that they’re able to score with numerous players. After Happ was the leader for Wisconsin against South Carolina State, Iverson scored a career-high 17 points as Wisconsin’s high scorer against Yale.

2. “I thought he [Iverson] was really energized from the start,” head coach Greg Gard said about the effort Iverson gave Sunday evening. “He really accepted the challenge Khalil [Iverson] didn’t shoot on Friday and had some turnovers. It’s the anniversary of his father’s passing this past week and I think that weighed on him and I could tell. I thought today he was his old self and rightfully so. I know that’s a difficult time having gone through it myself and I’m 20-plus years older than him.”

3. For the second game in a row, Wisconsin managed to be extremely balanced with their offensive output. In both games this season they’ve had four players reach double-figures. Against South Carolina State Andy Van Vliet, Brevin Pritzl, Trice, and Happ all scored 13 or more points. When Yale came to town Van Vliet, Trice, and Happ all scored at least 12, but Iverson was the fourth as opposed to Pritzl, who finished with six points and six rebounds.

4. Happ had another strong night for the Badgers. Early on, Yale was very determined to double-team him any time he touched the ball in the post. He did an excellent job of passing out of those situations to open teammates on the perimeter. He finished the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes, for his second double-double in as many games.

5. Although his state line looks good Happ definitely has a few areas where he needs to continue to work offensively. He had a few blown opportunities near the rim that need to be finished against better competition. Happ also struggled from the free throw line, finishing four-of-eight from the charity stripe. In the first game against South Carolina State, Happ went four-of-nine from the line. Leaving points at the free throw line will come back to haunt the Badgers eventually.

6. Outside of Happ, Wisconsin had a productive night on free throws, shooting 16-of-18, with the lone misses coming from Van Vliet.

7. Happ left the floor at the halftime buzzer walking gingerly to the locker room. He did start the second half, however he had a sleeve on his knee, which was not present previously.

8. “It was the defensive possession before [the half] and I was sliding with [Miye] Oni,” Happ said about the tweak. “I just felt something in my knee. I got back up and once the adrenaline came down a little bit I felt something but I’m fine now and that’s all that matters.”

9. Wisconsin wasn’t afraid to shoot from distance on Sunday evening. They took 22 shots from behind the arc, hitting seven of them. That final number was boosted by a four-for-four stretch that started with roughly eight minutes remaining in the game. Prior to that they were a dismal 3-for-16 from deep.

10. “At times it was too quick,” Gard said about the three-point selection against Yale. “I thought specifically on a couple offensive rebounds, and I’ll have to go through the tape to see exactly how open we were, but I thought there were a couple times when we had offensive rebounds and we could have made it hurt a little bit more and we took quick shots that maybe weren’t that open or we weren’t set or depending who took it.”

11. Van Vliet had the most attempts from three-point range, shooting two-of-five from behind the arc. In all, 11 of the 13 players that saw the court attempted at least one three-pointer. The two who did not were Matt Ferris and Aaron Moesch. They combined for one total shot in seven minutes after the game was already in hand.

12. There will be nights when Wisconsin is able to shoot lights out from distance, and that very well could win them a game or two. The flip side of that is things could very easily go the other way and getting three-point happy could cost them a game when they go cold.

13. Yes, that means even Happ took a three-pointer. It was the first of his career and was taken at the 14:18 mark of the first half.

14. Wisconsin is in action next on Thursday night when Xavier University is at the Kohl Center. The Musketeers opened the season ranked 16th. Tip-off is at 7:30pm.

Wisconsin may face Minnesota without Vitto Brown

MADISON, Wis. — Because of a lower leg injury suffered in Tuesday’s win over Michigan, Wisconsin may face Minnesota without senior forward Vitto Brown.

Brown’s right leg was rolled up on during the second half of Tuesday’s win, going to the floor in obvious pain. The Badgers didn’t practice on Wednesday, but during Thursday’s session, Brown was notably absent from on-the-court workouts. UW officials say his absence was due to the injury.

Sophomore Khalil Iverson took over for Brown with the starting unit during practice and it would appear that’s who would fill in for him should Brown be unable to go Saturday afternoon. Iverson has played in all 18 games this season, and assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft says no determination has been made how many minutes he may play if replacing Brown.

Bronson Koenig scores 17 as Wisconsin takes out in-state rival Marquette 93-84

Nigel Hayes couldn’t care less about the Wisconsin-Marquette rivalry. The senior has repeatedly said throughout his time in Madison that it’s just another game on the schedule, and his tune didn’t change on Saturday in the wake of the Badgers 93-84 win against the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee.

“This rivalry doesn’t mean much to me. I’m from Ohio, so I don’t really care,” Hayes said. “I just look at it as another game that we have the ability to go out and win against a good team.”

But perhaps remembering what was said by Marquette’s Henry Ellenson a year ago — that the Golden Eagles proved who the best team in the state was with their 57-55 win in Madison — Hayes finished by saying what many Wisconsin fans were probably thinking.

“We had a little bump last year in the road,” said Hayes, who finished his career 3-1 against Marquette. “(But) big brother always rises back to the top where he’s supposed to be.”

And that’s exactly where the Badgers were following an intense and hard-fought game that saw them erase a 5-point halftime deficit, lead by as many as 18 and then close things out at the free throw line.

“You see how consistent we can be. When we are consistent, we’re pretty effective,” coach Greg Gard said. “But you also see the times where we’re not (and) how much more we have to grow and how much better we can get.”

Playing without sophomore Ethan Happ for much of the first half due to two quick fouls, the Badgers were able to keep things close despite four 3-pointers by Katin Reinhardt off the bench. But when Happ returned after the break, that’s when things started to swing in Wisconsin’s favor, and it showed on the scoreboard.

The Badgers outscored Marquette 35-12 in the first 13:16 of the second half to take a 70-52 lead, and the Golden Eagles never got closer than eight the rest of the game.

Guard Bronson Koenig had 17 points and six assists to lead a Wisconsin offense that put up its most points ever in the 123 meetings between the two schools, hitting on 58.2 percent of their shots for the game, including going 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Badgers, who won their fifth straight game. Hayes ended up with 17 points, Vitto Brown had 15, Zak Showalter added 11 and Happ also had a 11 in just the second half. Wisconsin also got a big lift off the bench from Khalil Iverson, who scored a career-high 16 points on 5 of 6 shooting, and was a terror on defense, blocking a pair of shots.

Marquette was led by guard Markus Howard, who had 22 points, while Reinhardt scored 16.

With the win, Gard improved to 24-10 as Wisconsin’s coach, including a 9-2 record this season.

The Badgers will face UW-Green Bay on Wednesday at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin overcomes slow start to rout Chicago State 69-51

MADISON | Following an ugly start that saw them down 8-0 for a second straight game, the Wisconsin basketball team found its footing, taking care of Chicago State 69-51 on Thursday night.

The No. 9 Badgers (2-1) turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the game, allowing the Cougars (1-1) to jump out to the same lead Creighton held on Tuesday night. But this time Wisconsin had the answer, going on a 23-3 run that saw Chicago State go without a bucket for more than 9 minutes, and the Badgers led the rest of the way.

The difference on the night was the points off the bench. Wisconsin outscored Chicago State 36-4, led by Khalil Iverson’s career-high 11 points. The sophomore also added five rebounds, two assists and two blocks, including swatting a 3-point attempt into the crowd.

Senior Vitto Brown led Wisconsin in scoring with 12 points, one of three Badgers in double digits.

Wisconsin didn’t shoot overwhelmingly better than they did on Tuesday against Creighton, but they were determined not to settle for shots from the outside. They took just 19 3-pointers — 20 fewer than in the loss to the Bluejays — hitting five of them, including a pair from Brown.

Freshman D’Mitrik Trice continued his strong start to the season, dishing out seven assists in 23 minutes of action.

The win came despite a rough shooting performance from senior Nigel Hayes. The forward missed his first five shots, and finished with just three points on 1 of 8 shooting, while also hitting just one of his four free throws.

Wisconsin now heads to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, where they’ll take on Tennessee Monday afternoon.

Wisconsin Chicago State box

Wisconsin takes out UW-Platteville 86-58 in exhibition action

MADISON — The Wisconsin basketball team turned a 10-point halftime lead into a 86-58 win over UW-Platteville in exhibition action on Sunday at the Kohl Center.

Player of the game: Khalil Iverson

The sophomore showed he can still dunk with the best of them but that his game is also more than that. Iverson was perfect from the field (4 of 4), including a 3-pointer to give the Badgers a 17-point lead midway through the second half. He was active on defense, finishing with three steals, while also dishing out one assist.

The great: Bronson Koenig

He got Wisconsin off and running with a long 2-pointer to start the scoring and closed out the first half with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give Wisconsin a 10-point lead. Though the senior played just three minutes in the second half, he finished with a team-high 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting, while also managing pair of assists without turning the ball over.

Koenig also managed a rare dunk off a turnover, highlighting his offseason work to improve his quickness and athleticism.

The not so great: Free throw shooting

Platteville was still in the game at the half because of Wisconsin’s woes at the line. They were in the bonus for nearly the last 13 minutes of action but hit on just 12 of their 24 attempts, including forward Ethan Happ managing to go 2 of 8 from the line. They finished the game 21 of 37 from the line.

Stats of the game: 33 and 54

That’s the number of turnovers and fouls combined by both teams, respectively.

Quote of the game:

“We can only utilize our depth to our advantage if we do some of those little things better. If we continue to be a little looser with the ball, the depth won’t help us. If we can’t continue to convert at the free throw line, the depth won’t help us.”

— Wisconsin coach Greg Gard talking about the turnovers and free throw issues impacting what should be a deep team.

Video of the game:

Odds and ends:

— Sunday’s contest served as the Brain Cancer Awareness Game with a nod toward Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and UW-Platteville coach Jeff Gard, whose father died of the sickness exactly one year ago.

— All 17 players got in the game with true freshmen D’Mitrik Trice, Aleem Ford and Michael Ballard seeing their first college action.

— There were two Showalters on the floor on Sunday. Zak, a senior for Wisconsin, and Jake, a junior for UW-Platteville, guarded each other at times. Zak finished with 6 points and 2 rebounds, while Jake had 4 points and 5 rebounds.

— Senior Nigel Hayes and junior Jordan Hill stood a step back from the rest of the team during the national anthem. Both have been outspoken on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement and have supported San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his kneeling during the national anthem.

What’s next?

Wisconsin will open their regular season on Nov. 11 against Central Arkansas at the Kohl Center.

Red-White Scrimmage: Koenig impresses, sophomores look more comfortable, Van Vliet from 3 & more

MADISON — The Wisconsin basketball held its Red-White Scrimmage on Sunday at the Kohl Center with the Red team coming out on top 48-46.

Some observations:

1) Koenig impresses

There’s been a lot of talk about Bronson Koenig and the work he put in during the offseason to remake his body, and in turn, become a more complete player. It was just a glorified practice, but the senior showed his time was well spent.

He had the play of the game, crossing over his defender to get into the lane and then delivering a no-look pass to Alex Illikainen for a layup. Koenig also drilled a pair of 3-pointers, finishing with a team-high 16 points, including 14 in the first half.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Koenig said when asked if that effort was what he was hoping to show fans. “I had glimpses here and there, but I didn’t show everything yet.”

Koenig added that this was the first extended time the team has played 5-on-5 this fall, and it showed at times with what appeared to be some miscommunications that led to him turning the ball over seven times. Still, the first glimpse of Koenig’s makeover lived up to expectations.

2) Second-year players look more comfortable

As you’d expect, the guys that saw time last year as true freshmen look much more comfortable this year.

Khalil Iverson showed increased confidence in getting into the lane and drawing contact, and with his improved stroke from the free throw line, was able to make the other team pay for it. The sophomore also handled the ball well, dishing out four assists and did not have a turnover. His work with the ball was an offseason focus and he might be able to get some time running the point like he did in high school.

Charlie Thomas, or as he’s apparently going by this year, Charles Thomas IV, drilled the one 3-pointer he took, while Illikainen was a perfect 4 of 4 from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds. The battle for playing time between these two will be among the more interesting stories to watch here in the preseason.

3) Van Vliet shows his range

After being forced to sit out last season, sophomore Andy Van Vliet made his presence felt early, drilling a pair of 3-pointers — both of them bank shots — and he ended up with a total of 7 points and pulled in 8 rebounds.

“I don’t think we can count on banking in 3’s all the time,” coach Greg Gard quipped afterwards.

Van Vliet’s length is something last year’s team was missing. The 7-footer can affect shots in the lane, and as he puts more weight on (he’s up 25 pounds to 225), could become a force inside and out.

4) Freshmen show glimpses

Wisconsin’s two true freshmen scholarship players each showed why Gard and company wanted them.

At 6-foot-7, Aleem Ford is long and athletic, blocking a pair of shots and forcing several more tough ones, while D’Mitrick Trice was solid, and his one make came off a crossover pull-up jumper that looked similar to what we’ve seen Koenig do in past years.

With as deep a team as this one, it’s unclear how much time either guy will see, but they both would seem to give Wisconsin’s coaching staff a lot of talent to work with moving forward.

5) Don’t overreact

Wisconsin will start the season inside the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches poll, and there were some, including ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who said that was too high, with his reasoning being that he couldn’t get the image of Nigel Hayes’ issues shooting the ball last season out of his mind. Hayes did little to change that on Sunday, going just 2 of 8 from the floor and 1 of 5 from beyond the arc.

But just like we can’t take all the positive things as being the truth, the same goes for the other side of it. So while, yes, Hayes didn’t shoot it well, let’s wait more than one scrimmage before passing judgment on whether this effort will be the norm this season.

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