MADISON | The Wisconsin Badgers opened the home portion of their preseason schedule on Wednesday night with a 69-38 victory over the University of Northern Iowa in an exhibition matchup. Wisconsin got a strong effort out freshman Kobe King, who was the game’s high scorer with 15 points.
The Badgers only return one starter from the 2016-17 season in forward Ethan Happ. Happ got off to a slow start in the first half, but finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes on the night. As a team, Wisconsin was not very sharp early, failing to score for nearly the first three minutes of the game. They trailed 10-2 at the 13:20 mark of the first half.
After that it was all Badgers as they were able to pull away against the inferior Panthers, cruising to the 69-38 win.
Here are 15 last shots for King’s 15 points on the evening.
1. Wisconsin trotted out a starting lineup of D’Mitrik Price, Brevin Pritzl, Khalil Iverson, Andy Van Vliet, and Happ. Of those five, only Happ was a regular starter last year for the Badgers.
2. “I think it’s meshing together nicely, but it’s definitely taking time and it’s going to take some more time,” Happ said of the new starting lineup. “Especially having certain guys in at certain moments of the game. We’ve been really fortunate with the trip overseas and then to have the scrimmage against Missouri and now this. The more reps we get as a team, that’s going to help us a lot.”
3. Early on, it looked as if the Badgers hadn’t played together much yet, which is mostly true. While the team did play exhibition games in Australia and New Zealand over the summer along with a closed exhibition against Missouri last week, they’re still feeling each other out.
4. Wisconsin went nearly the first three minutes without a bucket. Happ started the scoring for them at the 17:01 mark to cut the early Northern Iowa lead to two points. UNI then scored the next six to make it 10-2 at the 13:20 mark of the first half. McCloud had all 10 of those points for the Panthers. He didn’t score again the rest of the night.
5. After the slow start, Wisconsin got things rolling once King and fellow freshman Brad Davison checked in. The two guards book-ended a 17-0 run for the Badgers. The run started with five straight points from King and ended with a Davison three-pointer. It was evident that they provided a much-needed spark off the bench for Wisconsin.
6. “We settled down, we were nervous,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said about his team’s slow start. “I could tell by looking at Van Vliet, Iverson, and Pritzl on the bench before the starting lineups, you could tell they had the look like ‘I’m starting my first game in the Kohl Center.’ They all admitted that they were a little nervous, and rightfully so. This is a big step for them to do that.”
7. With the starting lineup being 80% new compared to last season, there’s a chance that it becomes a fluid situation. If King continues to give Wisconsin the same effort and production that he gave on Wednesday night, it will be awfully tough to have him continue to come off the bench on a regular basis. He might be better off in the starting lineup at points this season.
8. Wisconsin went 10-of-24 from behind the arc against UNI. They used eight different players to knock down those 10 three-pointers, including Happ. Happ had not attempted a three-pointer last season, but attempted two Wednesday night, knocking one down from straight away early in the second half.
9. “He’s worked at it, but I know he understands that his game isn’t attached to his ability to shoot threes,” Gard said about Happ’s game from deep. “I don’t know if I have anything up my sleeve for him to run for him for a three yet. Maybe he’ll try and talk me into it.“
10. Iverson and Aleem Ford were the two Badgers to hit multiple threes against UNI. They both shot two-of-four from behind the arc.
11. Defensively, Wisconsin really locked down in the second half. The half began with Wisconsin leading 35-18. Northern Iowa scored the first seven points of the half in the first two minutes. They didn’t hit another field goal until there was 3:43 left to play. Over that stretch they missed 17 consecutive shots, only scoring three points on free throws. Wisconsin stretched their lead from 10 points to 32 points in that time.
12. The Badgers did play good defense over that stretch, but Northern Iowa did miss shots that a typical team found on Wisconsin’s schedule would normally make. If you’re a Panthers fan, it was an especially tough half of basketball to watch.
13. One area where the Badgers thrived was creating points off turnovers. They forced 16 turnovers on the night, turning them into 25 points. Conversely, the Badgers turned the ball over 11 times, but UNI was only able to score six points off those miscues.
14. Wisconsin will be in action next on Sunday when they host UW-Stout in their third and final exhibition of the preseason.
15. The regular season beings for Wisconsin on November 10, when they host South Carolina State University at the Kohl Center.