MADISON -- For a few early minutes on Wednesday night, the Wisconsin Badgers came out rusty and playing the kind of basketball you'd expect from an early-season exhibition. The UW-Oshkosh Titans built a 7-0 lead, and a lightly filled Kohl Center crowd wondered how long it would take for the Badgers to heat up.
Turns out, the 16,488 fans in attendance didn't have to wait long. Wisconsin quickly built a 20-0 run to establish a double-digit lead and eventually ran away with a 96-44 win.
Oshkosh built its very early lead thanks to some white-hot shooting and lousy play from Wisconsin. But the Titans also sent out a lineup with one player listed at 6-foot, two listed at 6-foot-1, one at 6-foot-4 and the other at 6-foot-7, and the Badgers' size was bound to even everything before long. Freshman point guard George Marshall initially led the charge, and once the Badgers led 14-12 at the 14:51 mark, they never looked back. At halftime, Wisconsin led, 44-18.
"I don't know that we're going to score 96 points every game," senior forward Ryan Evans said. "This is one of the smaller teams we've played, that I've played in my career. But to their credit, they were real gritty and I have a lot of respect for those guys. They were really getting in the meat."
In these early-season contests -- tonight's doesn't even count toward the standings -- the most interesting bits of information come in the unveiling of head coach Bo Ryan's rotation. After the starting lineup of George Marshall, Ben Brust, Frank Kaminsky, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, freshman Sam Dekker and sophomore Traevon Jackson were the first Badgers off the bench. Dekker even got some looks at the 5, if you can call it that, when he was the largest UW player on the court alongside Evans, Jackson, Brust and Marshall.
Marshall finished with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting and one assist in his first game action as Wisconsin's starting point guard. He and Sam Dekker (five points, five rebounds, three assists), the other freshman expected to see significant time this season, faired well in their debuts.
"I thought they did a pretty good job once they realized, number one, you can tell guys that you don't want to play horse with Division III teams, you can't give guys open space," Ryan said of his younger players. "Once we had some guys become believers, then it changed. We went a little smaller so we could guard the dribble drives and some of the fade screens, and then we did a much better job."
Yet it was the Badgers' veteran leaders that paced the scoring, as senior forward/center Jared Berggren led all scorers with 16 points and added six rebounds, while senior forward Ryan Evans notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Other Badgers in double figures included sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky (12 points, three rebounds) and junior guard Ben Brust (12 points, three rebounds, three assists) with Marshall.
In total, each of the 14 Badgers that took the floor scored at least two points. Each member of the starting five scored in double-digits, while four other players scored at least five points.
"It's kind of the way this team plays," Ryan said. "It's the way they played in the summer, it's the way they played in the fall. I could see pretty good balance not knowing who could explode on any given night.
"There's some guys out there that are capable, because as you know, especially in the league, if there's only one guy or two guys you're counting on, it's pretty hard. You've got to have contributions from other people."
One other interesting note: every healthy Badger saw action -- including seldom used Evan Anderson, J.D. Wise and Jordan Smith. In somewhat of a surprise, Zach Bohannon was the last of Wisconsin's newcomers to see the court. Even freshman guard Zak Showalter, who was tabbed for a redshirt before the injury to Josh Gasser, saw action before Bohannon, a junior transfer forward from Air Force.
Nevertheless, Bohannon might've had the best game among Badgers' newcomers not named George Marshall. In 15 minutes, Bohannon scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds (six offensive). Though he was just 1-for-4 from the field, Bohannon got to the foul line four times and sunk each free throw.
"He was active, he was moving his feet," Ryan said. "Zach can do those things, Zach is a grinder around the basket. He's going to help us that way this year."