After dropping three tough games in a row against Xavier, Baylor and UCLA, respectively, the unranked Badgers looked to bounce back at home against an unranked state rival in UW-Milwaukee. Wisconsin was successful in their effort, leading to a 71-49 victory over the Panthers at the Kohl Center.
On the other side, UW-Milwaukee came in at 4-1 under new coach Pat Baldwin, including an impressive win at Iowa State to start the season. In addition to the in-state rivalry, a headline coming into this one was the Wisconsin debut for 6’10” freshman Nate Reuvers, due to the lack of production at the four position for the young Badgers, as it was a strong possibility that he was to redshirt this season.
Ethan Happ kicked off the scoring with an easy bucket, but that’s about all the Badgers got that came easily in the first twenty minutes, with UW-Milwaukee not appearing afraid at all, especially on the defensive end. The underdog Panthers held Wisconsin to just 28 points in the first half, on 41% shooting from the field and an ugly 25% from behind the three-point line.
Brad Davison started the game well, scoring five of the Badgers’ first seven points, but then sat for the majority of the first half with foul trouble. With Davison out, guys like Aleem Ford, Brevin Prtizl and Andy Van Vliet picked it up on the defensive end, including the latter two each forcing a turnover, and Ford pounding the glass.
For the Panthers, big man Brett Prahl led the team with eight points on 4/4 from the field. Prahl and his teammates also made things difficult for Happ in the post, with the All-American having to fight for just about every bucket, including three attempts on one possession.
After the first possession, Milwaukee heavily shaded Happ every time he got the ball in the post, either having a man ready to rotate, or even switching to a full-on double team. Happ always does a good job of finding the open man, but his teammates were not really hitting their shots in the first half, especially from long-range.
Wisconsin started the second half on a 6-0 run, and continued its very impressive effort on the defensive end, holding the Panthers scoreless for the first two and a half minutes of the second period.
At one point early in the half, Coach Gard had four freshmen out on the floor for the Badgers, with just sophomore Brevin Prtizl as the “veteran” on the court for that short sequence. As UW started to pull away, Kobe King hit an NBA three as the shot clock expired, and the Badgers pushed their lead to double digits.
Wisconsin had a bit of a scary moment with about nine minutes left in the game, as point guard D’Mitrik Trice was in obvious pain and went straight to the locker room clutching his left arm, but returned less than five minutes later, with the Badgers up 52-35 at the 7:55 mark.
Brad Davison and the Badgers dominated the rest of the game, including three makes from long range for the freshman, who led all scorers with 19 points, and has increased his scoring in every game.
UW-Milwaukee’s coach, Pat Baldwin, had some very good things to say about Davison after the game.
“I love Brad. Where I was before (Northwestern), we were recruiting him pretty hard, and he was one of my favorite players,” said Baldwin. “He’s a great player. You love to have him on your team, and you hate to play against him.”
Happ added 14 points and eight rebounds, and Reuvers finished with six rebounds and two assists in his debut. Although the young freshman didn’t score in his debut, Coach Gard still seemed pretty pleased with his performance.
“Man, he was active. I thought for a debut, he did some really good things.”
Reuvers was also asked after the game about the whole redshirting process, and eventually playing, and the big man simply stated, “I thought that I was ready to play, and step into a role, so that’s why I’m playing,” as fellow freshman Davison sat next to him, and seemed to nod in agreement.
The Badgers, now 3-3 on the young season, will face Virginia in UW’s first real road test of the season Monday night in Charlottesville.