MADISON — After a second place finish in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving Week, the No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers played host to the Prairie View A&M Panthers. With the city of Madison already buzzing about the school’s football team, these Badgers did not want to be left out of the party, and defeated PVAMU 95-50.
Coming home after the team’s long trip in Hawaii, Coach Greg Gard felt pretty good about the team’s overall effort today.
“I’m proud of how the guys played,” Gard said. “They all played hard and were very efficient today.”
For the second game in a row, Wisconsin got off to a slow start, trailing 8-3 to the pesky Panthers two minutes into this one. That didn’t last long, as the Badgers woke up quickly, ignited by a big Nigel Hayes put back slam that tied the game at eight.
Emphasizing post touches and ball movement, the Badgers went on a 23-8 run, including a 12-0 run within that to lead 31-16. The run was highlighted by a textbook spin move from Ethan Happ, and aggressive play from Hayes, who already had 11 points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.
The Badgers’ “Big Three” definitely led the way in the first half, accounting for 32 of the team’s 47 points. The team shot over 62% in the half, helping to give them a 20 point lead, 47-27.
One surprise was Alex Illikainen not seeing the floor at all in the half, as he is usually the first man off the bench. Other than that, the Badgers were on cruise control most of the period after the slow start on the defensive end.
Wisconsin opened up the second half right where they left off, scoring eight unanswered including a massive slam from Khalil Iverson to put them up 55-27 with 15:50 to go. At this point in the game, Hayes was up to 15 points on 4/4 shooting, and 7/8 from the free throw line.
Illikainen finally checked in to the game at the 14:25 mark of the second half, but was only in for two minutes his first stint and did not attempt a shot.
Coach Gard was asked about Illikainen’s fewer minutes today. “It was more based on what I liked from Charlie Thomas,” Gard said, emphasizing Thomas’s post work in the team’s matchup against UNC.
Hayes added another made field goal, and his day was finished with 17 points in 19 minutes on 100% shooting from the field. At the 7:50 mark, the Badgers had opened up a 31-point lead, 74-43.
Coach Gard had some strong, encouraging thoughts about Hayes’ performance today, saying that he was “very happy for Nigel to perform like that. That’s who he can be when he locks in to that type of mode.”
With the team up nearly 40, fan favorites Brevin Pritzl, Andy Van Vliet, and Aaron Moesch all checked into the game. Pritzl hit a deep three, and as expected the crowd went crazy, and was even louder when he hit his second at the 2:23 mark.
This matchup was obviously against a less talented team in Prairie View A&M, but the Badgers showed some real glimpses, including terrific ball movement and fewer turnovers. Six Badgers scored in double figures as well, leading the team to a 95-50 victory.
Wisconsin moves to 5-2, and will host Syracuse in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge Tuesday night, which may require some extra preparation.
“I’ve only been able to watch our game with them (Syracuse) last year on Coach [Howard] Moore’s computer,” Gard said with a smile. “Mine was broken.”