The hangover from Wednesday night's party didn't last long for the Wisconsin men's basketball team. After beating a top-ten opponent in Duke at the Kohl Center, winning the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and celebrating with thousands of fans on the court, the arrival of Grambling State in Madison was anticlimactic, to say the least.
Nonetheless, the more talented Badgers did away with the Tigers in blowout fashion, 79-46, Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Both the players and the fans in attendance were lacking in intensity early, and Wisconsin led by just two at the first media timeout. The Badgers' halftime lead of 41-27 probably should have been a lot larger. But an 8-0 run opened a dominant second half, one in which Wisconsin held Grambling State to just 19 points. Tigers head coach Bobby Washington said the beginning of the half essentially sealed the victory for the Badgers.
"It was like the first three minutes, the first four minutes, we didn't come out to compete," Washington said. "I had to lay into my team, because that's one thing we're going to do. We're going to compete."
The Badgers limited the Tigers to 29 percent shooting overall and just 21 percent from the floor in the second half. Donald Qualls made three shots from beyond the arc for Grambling State, but the rest of the team combined to go 0-for-8 in that department. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan credited his team's defense with forcing the Tigers into poor shooting.
"The key is that we stayed disciplined in our lanes, in our positions defensively and limited them to very few at-the-rim-type shots," Ryan said. "The best part was our discipline."
Qualls was the only Tiger in double figures. He scored 15 points in 30 minutes off the bench, going 4-for-8 from the field.
The play of Wisconsin's three guards was the story of the afternoon. Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor combined for nine assists and 19 second-half points. Hughes, Taylor and Jason Bohannon were three of the four Badgers who finished in double figures. The guards helped Wisconsin shoot 60 percent from the floor and make 50 percent of its three-point attempts. Bohannon went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
"It feels good," Bohannon said. "You just have to have confidence in your shot. The shots were there again today and they happened to fall today. If my shots aren't falling, I'm trying to contribute in some other way."
"It's important to have confidence and everybody believing in one another," Hughes said. "We're getting the open look this year. Our shots are actually going down for us."
Taylor was particularly efficient, with a 5-for-6 shooting day in 25 minutes off the bench. Rob Wilson saw 19 minutes of action at guard as well. Washington was impressed with the Badgers' effort and talent.
"They did a great job," Washington said. "They're big, they're strong, they're talented and they continue to run their system.
The Badgers attempted twice as many free throws as the Tigers, an advantage of 28 to 14. But while getting to the line hasn't been a problem for Wisconsin this season, the struggle to make free throws has been somewhat of an Achilles' heel. That issue won't go away after this game, as the Badgers shot only 68 percent from the charity stripe.
Wisconsin plays its first true road game Wednesday night at UW-Green Bay. Ryan said, despite a busy week at the Kohl Center, the team is now entirely focused on the next game.
"We all know what these are like," Ryan said. "Our guys get a day to catch up a little bit, then they're in the weight room at 6:45 a.m. Monday morning, getting ready for Green Bay."