MADISON, WI- The unranked Wisconsin Badgers took care of business in a pretty impressive offensive display Friday night, defeating the South Carolina State Bulldogs 85-50. New starters played a big role in the victory, as did Wisconsin’s lone returning starter, big man Ethan Happ.
Coming out party
Wisconsin’s starters combined for 68 of the team’s 85 points in the win, which is an overwhelming majority of the total. And of that total, two players making their first career starts for the Badgers put up over half, as shooting guard Brevin Pritzl and stretch four Andy Van Vliet combined for 35 points as they made their starting debuts at the Kohl Center.
Badgers fans have heard a lot about the potential of these two players, who essentially redshirted together during the 2015-2016 season, and have been able to see glimpses, specifically on the offensive side of the floor. When it counted tonight, Pritzl and Van Vliet did not disappoint.
Pritzl scored a career-high 17 points on an efficient 6/10 from the field, highlighted by three baskets from deep, including one very tough, contested attempt from long range. In addition, the DePere native added three boards, two assists, and did not commit a turnover in 28 minutes on the floor.
Van Vliet, much like Pritzl, shot well from the floor, including an unconscious 4/5 from three-point range to finish with 18 points, and eight rebounds. 18 points is not only a career high for Van Vliet, but matches his previous combined total from last season in his short Badgers’ career.
The Belgian big man didn’t know how he would fit in after last season, but his emotions shined through tonight, leaving the court with a big smile on his face. “I was a little nervous before, which I think is normal. It felt good to be out there, after two years of not really playing. To finally be out there in the Kohl Center, it’s a blessing,” Van Vliet exclaimed after the game.
Expectations are relatively high for Pritzl and Van Vliet this year to contribute, and in the season opener, both of them stepped up.
Happ looks as good as ever
As expected, Ethan Happ was the best player on the floor, and at times, really made it look easy.
Happ rebounded well, finished at the rim, and even brought the ball up the floor several times, en route to an efficient double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds on just eleven shots. His post game was great, highlighted by multiple spin-move finishes, and he looked a lot more comfortable moving both with and without the ball.
In addition, the redshirt junior is often double-teamed, and even that fact and his presence on the floor help the offense, as Pritzl described after the game. “I just think Ethan has done a really good job getting out of it (the double team), and he makes things easier for us by helping get us open with that.”
Happ struggled from the charity stripe a bit, shooting 4/9, but truly looks more comfortable with his shot, and it’s just the first game of the season.