The #25 Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Stanford Cardinal 62-46 behind a gritty defensive effort in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday afternoon. Nathan Reuvers had a breakout game with eight points, in addition to tying the school record in blocks with nine.
Wednesday afternoon was a throwback to the old Bo Ryan days of defense and free throws. Reuvers was a defensive force with a few highlight reel blocks as Wisconsin held Stanford to just 27.6% from the field. The Badgers shot 15-of-19 from the free throw line to help keep their lead comfortable throughout the second half. Wisconsin reached the double-bonus early and was able to control the pace.
The Badgers didn’t hit a three until there was less than a minute left with Kobe King canning one when the game was well over (which was also the only source of bench points for the Badgers), but it didn’t matter for Wisconsin. At one point, ESPN flashed a graphic showing the Badgers scored 28 of their first 34 points in the paint. Ethan Happ, D’Mitrik Trice, and Brad Davison were again the main three scorers for Wisconsin with 16, 16, and 14 points respectively.
Wisconsin created some initial separation on the scoreboard in the opening minutes of the second half. Reuvers started out the scoring with a jumper, and then Trice had a tough take to the rim. Wisconsin led 32-24, their largest lead of the game to that point.
The Badgers defense continued to give Stanford fits, as the Cardinal started out just one-of-nine from the field. Stanford eventually rattled off a 7-0 run in less than two minutes in the second half to make things interesting. Stanford got within two points, but Wisconsin answered with an 11-0 run themselves to run away with the game late.
The Badgers shot 51 percent to Stanford’s 30 percent in the first half, but Greg Gard’s squad was unable to stretch out to a big lead. Turnovers were the main issue as the Badgers had seven in the first 15 minutes of the game. Stanford hung close with a balanced attack; nobody had more than two baskets. Happ dominated the paint with ten points, but the main highlight of the first half was Happ playing without a shoe for a few possessions. Happ lost his shoe, kicked it out of bounds, and went right back to work.
Stanford’s leading scorer KZ Okpala, with over 22 points per game, was just 2-12 from the field. The Badgers neutralized their struggles from three by holding Stanford to just 2/18 from beyond the arch.
Some more good news for Wisconsin in addition to advancing to the winning bracket in the Battle 4 Atlantis, was that Aleem Ford saw his first action of the year after missing the first three games with an injury.
Up next, Wisconsin will play Oklahoma tomorrow at 12:30 in the semifinal of the Battle 4 Atlantis.