MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers opened the much-anticipated 2014-2015 basketball season against the Northern Kentucky University. On a night that show the 2014 Final Four banner raised into the rafters, the Badgers cruised to an easy victory over the Norse 62-31, their 13th straight season opening victory. Forwards Frank Kaminsky led the way with 17 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on his way to a double double, the first of the season,while Sam Dekker tacked on 15 points and two rebounds.
"I would have liked to have shot the ball better," Kaminsky said. "I was a little hesitant shooting the ball and then everything felt like an airball for a while, but yeah it's a pretty good start."
The Badgers started slow in the first half, going scoreless on their first three possessions. While the Badgers eventually pulled ahead to a double-digit lead, the Norse stuck with Wisconsin, only trailing 21-15 with five minutes remaining in the half. The Badgers led at the end of the halfway mark 28-15 behind Kaminksy's 10 points and seven rebounds. Nigel Hayes grabbed 7 rebounds in the first half, as did Kaminsky. The Badgers shot 45.8 percent in the first half and went 3-11 from three-point range in the half. The defense did hold the Norse to 28 percent shooting in the first half.
"It was pretty much what you expect. Similar to a lot first games we've had," head coach Bo Ryan said. "We had some rough spots."
"It's good to get out there again. It makes you excited," Dekker said. "We were a little rusty at first, but I think we broke through it and played pretty good basketball tonight."
The Badgers held Northern Kentucky, who struggled from the floor, to 26.4 percent from the field on the night and 12.5 percent from three. Northern Kentucky's leading scorer was Daniel Camps with eight points. Wisconsin out-rebounded the Norse 42-28, grabbing seven offensive rebounds and 35 defensively.
"It's very difficult to simulate their size and strength," Northern Kentucky head coach Dave Bezold said. "We had to decide what we were going to take away. What we were gonna give them.
"There's no way we can stop them inside. They could throw it in there all day long. If we don't commit everyone down, and that's what we were trying to do, commit everyone down. Don't let them have layups."
The Badgers came out much more inspired in the second half, scoring eight unanswered points and never letting the margin between the two teams fall below 20 after the 12:40 mark. The Badgers shot much better and kept up their level of intensity on defense.
Raising The Banner
Raising The Banner
"Nigel [Hayes] was active. I thought defensively he did some good things," Ryan said. "I thought defensively Vitto [Brown] and Nigel and the other guys... they did a great job of moving their feet and cutting off the driving lanes."
Wisconsin shot 12-for-23 in the second half and finished the game at 48.9 percent and were 4-for-17 from three point. Bo Ryan said after the game that scoring 12 points for 17 shots was not what he was looking for, but that he expected more of those shots to fall as time goes on.
"Four-for-17 is not what you want to shoot. That's 12 points on 17 shots," Ryan said. "We needed to make two more to be okay. If you're getting more points than the shots you're taking that's okay."
Traevon Jackson finished the game with nine points, all in the second half, while Nigel Hayes had six points and 10 rebounds. Rounding out the starters, Josh Gasser had six points and five rebounds. The Badgers committed nine turnovers on the night but countered that with 13 assists.
The Badgers next take the court against Chattanooga on Sunday at 12 p.m. CT. The game can be found on ESPNNEWS.
-- The Badgers started Jackson, Gasser, Dekker, Hayes, Kaminsky.
-- Twelve Badgers saw the floor.
-- Dekker appeared to reaggravate his ankle injury two separate times, but played through the pain, saying after the game that he was fine.
-- Bronson Koenig saw the most time off the bench with 26 minutes, followed by Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter.
-- Hayes got his first career start.
-- Matt Ferris will not redshirt this season after entering the game with two minutes remaining. He had been contemplating whether to sit this season out.
-- Ethan Happ did not play as he mulls over his redshirt decision.
-- Duje Dukan served his third of four games in which he is suspended by the NCAA for a redshirt rule infringement.
-- Thirty-one points are the fewest the Badgers have allowed since 2011 season, when Wisconsin held UMKC to 31 points.