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An auspicious beginning

Gasser shines in Wisconsin debut, Badgers nearly hit century mark in rout of Panthers

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin freshman guard Josh Gasser was supposed to be a contributor this season. It's safe to say he chipped in during the Badgers' first regular season win of the year with 21 points in 26 minutes of court time. Add in nine rebounds and three assists and suddenly Wisconsin's alleged lack of depth at guard starts to seem like a myth.

Gasser was one of three Badgers to score at least 20 points as Wisconsin crushed Prairie View A&M 99-55 in front of a sellout crowd of 17,230 at the Kohl Center Sunday. Just a day after watching the football team drop 83 in an historic win over Indiana, the Badger hoops players were impressive on their way to the most points Wisconsin has scored in a game since 2006.

Gasser's 21 points are the second-most for a freshman in his Wisconsin debut; Rashard Griffith burst onto the scene with 27 points in his inaugural game.

"I wasn't expecting that at all," Gasser said. "I was just out there doing whatever I could to help us win. I wasn't the only one that had a great game. It was a team effort and got us the win."

With Rob Wilson out with a strained hamstring, the guard position opposite Jordan Taylor has been a bit unsettled. Head coach Bo Ryan started walk-on Wquinton Smith for the second straight game, but he missed all five of his shots and ended up scoring just one point in 17 minutes. If the Badgers continue to get such production from guys like Gasser, though, they will weather Wilson's absence quite comfortably.

"Obviously nerves were there a little bit at the beginning," Gasser said. "I got a lot more comfortable as the game went on."

Gasser's teammates were impressed with his performance.

"He did great," senior forward Jon Leuer said. "Talk about a good debut, that's about as good as it gets. I was happy for him. To have another guy that can step up, that's great. To have a lift like that off the bench, it helps a lot."

"Maybe he's the next Devin Harris," junior guard Jordan Taylor opined. "He almost had a double-double, and had the second most points in a debut in Badger history. We've been talking about [what Gasser could do] since the start of the season."

It was just another day at the office for those two, who combined for 44 points, ten rebounds and seven assists. Leuer drained three three-pointers to start the game for Wisconsin and finished 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, while Taylor played a game-high 31 minutes.

The Panthers kept things close early, but the Badgers pulled away in the second half, winning the final period 58-24 and shooting 66.7 percent from the field. Wisconsin rode its size advantage to a 51-to-16 rebounding edge.

The Badgers now face a quick turnaround as they get ready to welcome North Dakota to the Kohl Center Tuesday night. 

Maybe it will be Duje Dukan's or Ben Brust's chance to turn heads in their rookie seasons.