Buoyed by a strong defensive effort, the Wisconsin men's basketball team dispatched Oakland, 58-42, Wednesday night at the Kohl Center. The Badgers built a 24-point second-half lead over their Summit League opponent, en route to their second victory in as many games this season.
In addition to holding Oakland to just 42 points, the Badgers frustrated the Golden Grizzlies by allowing them to convert just 3-of-19 three-point attempts. The Grizzlies' propensity to take ill-advised shots from beyond the arc led to 26 defensive rebounds for Wisconsin. Oakland head coach Greg Kampe had no answer for his team's woes from three-point land.
"It's perplexing," Kampe said. "We did not shoot the ball well. We're a team that has a history of having really good three-point shooting teams."
Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer said the Badgers' success on defense is by design.
"[Defense] is what our whole system is predicated off of - getting stops defensively, forcing teams to take tough shots," Leuer said.
Johnathon Jones and Keith Benson combined for 27 points for the Grizzlies, while their teammates could only account for 15 among themselves. Overall, Oakland shot just 27.3 percent from the field.
Wisconsin's big men again took advantage of their size, as Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer combined to go 10-of-19 from the floor, scoring 21 of their points after halftime. The two also recorded six of the Badgers' eight blocks on the night. After blocking 11 shots as a team against IPFW in the season opener, Wisconsin has now rejected 19 shots in its first two games.
Trevon Hughes produced another solid performance, leading the team with 15 points, while dishing out four assists. He gave head coach Bo Ryan "a headache" because of his four turnovers, but the coach on the other bench was impressed.
"I thought Trevon Hughes, late in the first half, really dictated the game," Kampe said. "He had some great plays and was able to open the score up so we really didn't have a chance."
Hughes especially found success by penetrating the defense, driving by defenders and getting the Grizzlies' big men in foul trouble. Oakland held an early 8-4 lead before Kampe put Keith Benson and Will Hudson on the bench with two fouls apiece.
"That changed the whole game," Kampe said. "We had to go with smalls and we couldn't guard them."
Redshirt freshman Ryan Evans continues to see the most time off the bench for Wisconsin, logging 22 minutes. Evans again impressed with his energy, snagging seven rebounds and chipping in four points as well.
Poor shooting remains a concern for the Badgers, who went just 3-of-14 from three-point range. Tim Jarmusz and Jason Bohannon, who figure to be the team's biggest contributors in that area this season, struggled again, combining to hit just 1-of-5 shots from beyond the arc. Still, Ryan doesn't seem too concerned, because the team is creating opportunities.
"People are trying to find their rhythm right now," Ryan said. "We really had some great open looks tonight. Hopefully, we'll have some nights when somebody's going to have to pay for the open looks we get. I think we can knock those down in the future."
The Badgers will not play another game in Madison for two weeks, as they travel to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Wisconsin's first game is Monday against Arizona. Ryan said he believes the experience will prove to be a barometer of how competitive his team is.
"[Maui] is where a lot of things are found," Ryan said. "What we're looking for is to try and take care of Arizona. Then we'll take care of the next opponent. We won't get our normal preparation, and neither will the other team."
The competition generally figures to get much tougher for Wisconsin. After two relatively easy wins, the Badgers enter a tournament featuring teams from several major conferences. They then return home, only to face Duke in the most highly-anticipated game on their regular season schedule.
The Badgers have shown their followers a lot against weaker opponents, but the conclusions will certainly be clearer in 14 days.