The Badgers opened up the 2016-17 campaign with a win over Central Arkansas, 79-47. Usually if you’re the ninth ranked team in the country playing an unknown squad like Central Arkansas, you want the game to be uneventful. In 2015, the Badgers lost to Western Illinois in a shocker, but the Badgers took care of this year’s opener in a game that was mostly uneventful.
Reliant from outside
The Badgers shot 29 threes on Friday night while only shooting 24 two-point attempts. Koenig shot 10 times from behind the arc, and Ethan Happ only shot four times all game. The Badgers are going to need to find more balance as the season progresses.
Koenig leads the way
Much has been made about Bronson Koenig’s improvement athletically from the offseason and coach Gard has mentioned multiple times about how he’s “a different player from a year ago.”
In the Badgers Red and White scrimmage, UWP exhibition game, and the opener against Central Arkansas, Koenig has led the Badgers in scoring.
Koenig hit four threes and totaled 16 points. Koenig did not however tally an assist in 24 minutes.
Big men make plays
The Badgers totaled 14 assists against Central Arkansas, and 12 of them were by big men.
Nigel Hayes led the way with five assists, but even that doesn’t do him justice. Hayes showed vision and touch on passes that he hasn’t displayed in previous years. Ethan Happ recorded a career-high four assists.
The Badgers played 10 people in the first 11 minutes. Yes, you read that right. Head coach Greg Gard subbed early and often.
Jordan Hill, Alex Illikanen, D’Mitrik Trice, Khalil Iverson, and Charles Thomas all subbed in during the first half. It appears right now that those are Gard’s most trusted players off the bench. 12 of the 34 first half points came from the bench.
Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet didn’t see the floor until they both subbed in with under five minutes left in the game. Many expected those two to steal minutes from Alex Illikainen, Charles Thomas, and Jordan Hill, but so far, Gard has went with the guys that played substantial minutes last year.
Trice shines in opening night
D’Mitrik Trice impressed many during the preseason, but preseason is one thing. Seeing him perform under the lights in his first collegiate game is a different thing.
Trice got the Badgers out of a drought in the middle of the first half by hitting back-to-back threes. His solid ball-handling and overall command of the offense helps the Badgers fill one of their biggest perceived weaknesses, the backup point guard position. Before Trice made it obvious he could play in year one, Jordan Hill would’ve been the assumed backup point guard. Hill is much better in an off guard role, where he can spot up and shoot and doesn’t have to worry about ball handling.
Trice finished with 8 points, going 2-2 from the 3-point line and sinking his only two free throw attempts.
Slow start from Vitto Brown
With all of the players in the rotation, it seems like some players are going to get lost in the shuffle from game to game. Vitto Brown didn’t score a single point in 20 minutes going 0-5 from the field, and missing four 3-point attempts.