MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin men's basketball team will enter Big Ten play - and 2013 - with a 9-4 record, following a breezy 87-51 victory over Samford (3-11, 1-0 Southern Conference) at the Kohl Center Saturday.
Five players scored in double figures for the Badgers, led by Frank Kaminsky's career-high 16 points. Kaminsky played just 12 minutes off the bench, but he made 6-of-7 field goal attempts and went 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Head coach Bo Ryan was pleased with the sophomore center's effort, even against an overmatched opponent.
"I don't know how many of those wide open looks [Frank] is going to get against some other teams," Ryan said, "but if he just gets one or two of them and he can knock them down ... that's okay."
The Badgers went 12-for-22 on 3-pointers as a team.
Senior forward Mike Bruesewitz played arguably his best game of the season Saturday. He jump-started the Badgers with a drive down the lane and an emphatic slam dunk to score the first points of the game and never looked back.
Bruesewitz ended with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, all in the first half. He pulled down four rebounds, made three assists, and picked up two steals and a block.
"It just goes to show how important he is to this team," Ryan said. "I think when Mike gets in there and mixes things up, I think he affects things and his teammates."
Bruesewitz has battled through multiple injuries this season, including a concussion, but appears to be hitting his stride on the eve of conference play.
"It's good to have him back," Ryan said.
Bruesewitz' stellar performance kept freshman forward Sam Dekker on the bench for much of the game, though he made the most of his 19 minutes. Dekker scored 12 points and went 3-for-4 from deep. Balancing playing time for the two forwards is important, since both are valuable contributors in their own ways.
"[Dekker] understands that Mike has paid his dues," Ryan said. "Sam is still going to do a great job coming in off the bench and knows that the team loves the fact that Mike is out there. (Mike) brings so much energy and his teammates are comfortable with him from a standpoint that they know he's going to play hard all the time and we didn't have that in some games."
It was clear early on that Samford had no answer for the Badgers' size. Wisconsin raced out to an 18-5 lead and held a 28-point edge at halftime. None of Wisconsin's five double-digit scorers in the game were guards. UW held a 32-18 edge in points in the paint and a 43-22 rebounding advantage, led by Ryan Evans' career-high 12 rebounds.
The Badgers also utilized their size advantage on the defensive end, recording six blocks and holding Samford to 19 points on 21.4 percent shooting in the first half. Raijon Kelly led Samford with 16 points, while Wisconsin native Conner Miller added 12 points.
Ryan was coaching with a heavy heart after the passing of his mother, Louise, on Thursday in Pennsylvania. She didn't go without giving her son some tough love, however. Louise Ryan told Bo the team didn't look very good in some of its non-conference games.
For that reason, Ryan jokingly asserted, he never considered missing Saturday's game.
It's on to conference play now for the Badgers, who will face a Big Ten that is absolutely loaded from top to bottom. Entering the weekend, seven conference teams had two losses or fewer. Ryan thinks his team has looked more prepared for the gauntlet in recent weeks.
"There were some things I saw today about the extra passes and making pretty good decisions, especially in that first half," Ryan said. "We moved the ball well by making the extra pass."
Wisconsin first draws Penn State Thursday night at the Kohl Center. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
"It's not a new coach this year, so they're doing a lot of the same things," Ryan said. "It's pretty much that way through the league, that you're going to be playing people who are pretty much doing the same things that they've been doing."