MADISON — After a disappointing road trip to Omaha, the No. 9 team in the country played host to the Chicago State Cougars Thursday night and got back on the winning track, 69-51.
The Badgers got off to a terrible start in this one, turning the ball over twice and throwing up an airball to start the game. Those turnovers were by big men Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown, who were immediately subbed out along with Zak Showalter in the first minute and a half.
Coach Gard spoke a little bit about the importance of the turnovers after the game.
“They (turnovers) have been an emphasis since the end of last season. Not just how many but the type, and the team has to get better with that. I thought we looked better at it tonight.”
The Cougars started off the game in a tough zone defense, and that helped them to the lead of 8-0. Wisconsin made it 8-5 thanks to bench points from Charles Thomas and Jordan Hill, who were subbed in very early.
After holding the Cougars scoreless for almost ten minutes, the Badgers led 19-8 on a 19-0 run. D’Mitrik Trice made his presence known during this time with a three-pointer and four assists in just his first stint on the court.
Khalil Iverson had the early play of the year on a fantastic steal and fastbreak slam, which really got the crowd going and was a punctuation mark on the Badgers’ great run in the middle of the first half.
Vitto Brown also played well with seven first half points, including a three and a smooth midrange jumper. Chicago State, led by Fred Sims Jr.’s 13 first half points, only trailed by eight at the half, 32-24.
Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Nigel Hayes opened up the second half with a layup for the Wisconsin, which were his first two points of the game. An early second half highlight for the Badgers exhibited some routine Badger ball rotation, which led to a three from Brown at the top of the key after some unselfish passing by Koenig and Showalter.
Brown’s shooting was certainly a key to this game, as he started 5/7 for 12 points including two three-pointers. Thomas was also huge off the bench, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds in his first 10 minutes of play.
As the Badgers led 48-32 at the 11:30 mark, the bench had accounted for almost half of the team’s points, with 23 of 48.
D’Mitrik Trice continues to impress off the bench for the Badgers, as does Khalil Iverson. The two of them teamed up for a couple beautifully run fast break plays, and their efforts along with solid bench play helped the Badgers control the rest of the game.
After a slow start, the Badgers got rolling and defeated Chicago State 69-51.
Coach Gard was pretty happy with the bench play tonight, stating, “Obviously we’re a work in progress, and we’re going to get better. But I like what I’m seeing, guys that can step in at key moments and contribute and continue to get better.”
Gard was especially pleased with Trice’s play, and was asked about it at his press conference.
“He just makes everyone around him better. He does what good point guards should do. Make people around him better, and he leads the right way,” Gard replied.
Some very strong words for a freshman.
Wisconsin also tried Trice at the one and Koenig at the two, as Gard described it.
“Tonight it was intentional with (D’Mitrik) at the one and Bronson off the ball. Gives Bronson the chance to do some other things, and not make it so easy for defenses to lock down on him.”
This lineup was very effective, and Trice finished with seven assists.
The Badgers now travel to Maui, and face Tennessee Monday at 1:30 PM CT.