The Badgers snapped their three-game losing streak with a dominant second half over Milwaukee en route to a 71-49 victory. Here are some takeaways:
Nate Reuvers makes his debut
Wisconsin was considering redshirting Reuvers, a four-star, top-100 recruit out of Minnesota. Reuvers is tall and lanky and could have used the year off to build up his body to prepare for the physical toll the Big Ten season will take on him.
But due to the lack of production from the 4-spot that the Badgers have received early on this season, head coach Greg Gard decided it was time to do something about it.
So, after sitting the first five games, Reuvers saw his first minutes as a collegiate basketball player. They didn’t go great.
The freshman big man shot 0/6 from the field with six rebounds and two assists. Reuvers shot looked good, and just as important he took really good shots. They just didn’t go down.
Any judgment on Reuvers would be a snap judgment at this point. Not only was it his debut, his teammates and opponents each played five games before Friday night’s matchup, so everyone else is just starting to hit their stride while Reuvers has been on the bench. Everyone needs to give him some time to get acclimated to the court again.
However, most concerning about Reuvers do to his frail frame was his defense and rebounding, and Gard was pleased with the freshman’s activity. Additionally, the freshman took a charge.
The Freshman are really, really good
Brad Davison gets a lot written about him after each game to the point where it’s like: “Okay, we get it.”
But each game, Davison gives you something to write about. The freshman has gotten better every game. No, seriously, he’s literally improved his scoring output in each game. On Friday night against Milwaukee, just his second career start, Davison poured in 19 points on 7/8 shooting, including 5/6 from beyond the arch. He did that after missing nearly half of the first period due to foul trouble.
His scoring output in each game goes as follows: five, eight, 12, 13, 14, 19. Everyone knew the Minnesota native’s toughness and effort would lead to him contributing as early as this season, but no one expected this kind of impact from Davison this early.
Additionally, Kobe King has started to come along really nicely over the past few outings. King showed his first flashes against UCLA on Tuesday night when he scored a career-high nine points on 3/4 shooting, including two nice post moves and a three.
Against Milwaukee, King scored eight points and had a monster chase-down block that spiked off the backboard in total LeBron James fashion. The La Crosse native was expected to score early on for the Badgers, and it seems he’s starting to get his footing in the college ranks.
As the Badgers were pulling away from the Panthers, King might have delivered the final blow. The freshman caught the ball from well beyond three-point range, and probably even deep for the NBA, as the shot clock was expiring. King heaved it from deep and the ball saw nothing but net. So far, Happ and Davison have been looking for a consistent third scorer. King isn’t there yet, but hopefully, he can keep making strides.
The Badgers continue to get very little from the four spot
The power forward was such a concern that Gard finally decided to burn Reuvers’s redshirt as previously mentioned.
So far this year, here were the averages of the Badger power forwards before the Milwaukee matchup:
Aleem Ford: 5.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG (20.2 MPG)
Andy Van Vliet: 6.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG (13.8 MPG)
Alex Illikainen: 0.6 PPG, 0.4 RPG (6.4 MPG)
You can see why Gard felt the need to make a move at the position.
Against Milwaukee, the four combined for two points on 0/8 shooting, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Five of those seven assists came from Aleem Ford.
Illikainen, at least for now with Reuvers trying to get caught up, appears to completely have fallen out of the rotation, notching only a minute of playing time against Milwaukee.
At some point, one of the four needs to separate themselves from the pack. If they don’t, it will be really hard for the Badgers to be a real competitor in the Big Ten. If the four continue to struggle, one thing the Badgers could try is shifting Khalil Iverson to the four, and get another shooter in the lineup, which would probably be Pritzl or King if either starts to be consistently productive.