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Wisconsin basketball: Badgers' report card vs. River Falls

The tests have come back and the grades are mostly favorable for the Badgers after their exhibition win. No surprise here: Ethan Happ leads the way.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers moved to 1-0 in WIAC play with their 101-46 drubbing of UW-River Falls Wednesday at the Kohl Center.

Though it will be counted as an exhibition, the game guarantees Wisconsin an undefeated record against Division-III opponents.

The game-day grades have come in from Professor Curt. No, the Badgers weren't playing Maryland or Michigan State, but it's the first game of the season and no points were docked because of the opponent.

Let's just say things turned out more favorably for most Badgers than they did for me on all animal science exams.

The Starters

Bronson Koenig

Koenig played 23 minutes and finished with 10 points, three assists, three rebounds and no turnovers. In the early going, the junior carried the offense, scoring seven of the team's first 13 points. He hit two smooth step-back jumpers, a shot that he makes look so smooth. In his next stint on the floor, he skied high for a rebound and found forward Vitto Brown for a three-pointer.

There's really nothing to say badly about Koenig's play. He hit four of seven field goals, including two of four threes. He was aggressive on defense and his step-back was worthy of all the fire emojis.

Grade: A-

Zak Showalter

The junior guard got into foul trouble and only played five first-half minutes. He finished with 13 minutes and did not score while totaling three assists, two steals and no rebounds. Defensively is where he can be at his best, and that was the case Wednesday with the steals and a charge taken on the first defensive possession. Offensively, he struggled, missing all four field goals, including two three pointers. Of course, there was the missed dunk on a one-man breakaway that stands out, but Showalter didn't get to the rim, where he's at his best.

Grade: D+

Nigel Hayes

Nigel Hayes or Draymond Green? I'm honestly not sure from his 16-9-6 stat line in 25 minutes. He hit two of his three attempts from deep and scored .64 points per minute to tie for the team lead in scoring. He was aggressive on the boards and displayed improved ball handling. Hayes had arguably the play of the game with a baseline spin and jam in the first half.

It was a performance to be expected from the Badgers best player.

Grade: A-

Ethan Happ

You read all the tweets and practice reports about the redshirt freshman. And, sure, it was against a Division-III opponent in a game that only counts in Wisconsin's quest for the WIAC crown, but Happ looked every part of the things that were said. He showed nice touch around the rim, muscled his way to baskets, drew fouls and was efficient (7-of-9 shooting). The double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds speaks for itself.

Happ did the things that won't go as noticed. His passing out of the post has looked strong during practice, and he found redshirt sophomore Riley Dearring for a three when the double team came to display some of that vision. Then there were the two blocks, in which his length was the difference.

Grade: A

Vitto Brown

Brown did some things well, some not. He displayed some nice range with a three-pointer in the first half that looked smooth and blocked an attempted lay-up. In just 14 minutes, he finished with five points and three boards. In his first two seasons of limited action, Brown never even attempted a three. Expect that to change when the stats actually go on record.

He also looked rushed at times with the ball in his hands and needed defensive improvement. Against the Falcons, Brown had flashes of overcoming both of those things, but turned the ball over three times and was caught out of place on defense for baskets.

Grade: C

Key Reserves

Charlie Thomas

At 6'9, 250 pounds, Charlie Thomas does not look like a freshman. He did not play like one, either. He finished with 12 points and seven boards in 16 minutes. Thomas displayed a soft touch around the rim and stepped out for a jumper, shooting 5-of-7. He's ready to be the first guy off the bench for Bo Ryan.

Grade: A-

Jordan Hill

The redshirt sophomore guard will be Koenig's backup at point guard this season, most likely. He logged 14 minutes and hit a nice three off a behind-the-back dribble. Hill grabbed three rebounds and had no assists. Efficiency-wise, he wasn't particularly great, but his defense is going to be continuously pestering to opposing floor generals.

Grade: C+

Khalil Iverson

Iverson won't light up the scoreboard, but he's going to do a whole lot of everything for the Badgers. His athleticism may be his best attribute, and it was on full display with two athletic blocks Wednesday. The freshman also dished out two assists, out-hustled opponents for a rebound on multiple occasions and drew two trips to the free-throw line.

All-in-all, it was a four-point performance for Iverson in 16 minutes, but it was everything else he did that was eye-catching.

Grade: B+

Alex Illikainen

Another freshman, another notable performance. Illikainen tallied 19 minutes and, like Thomas, scored 12 points while grabbing seven boards. He stepped out and hit a three-pointer -- a shot he's been reluctant to shoot in practice, though it's in his arsenal. His efficiency was high and his 22.9 usage rate suggest the Badgers were comfortable going to him often.

Grade: A-

Riley Dearring

Dearring struggled in his first two seasons, but the redshirt sophomore has shown some signs that he can contribute and help the Badgers this year. The two main reasons? Defense and shooting, and both were on display Wednesday. He hit two triples in the first half and used his length to disrupt the Falcons as Wisconsin pulled away while logging 16 minutes.

Grade: B+


Aaron Moesch: Eight points in six minutes to the Moesch Potato, including four of five from the line.

Grade: A-

TJ Schlundt: Schlundt couldn't connect on offense and played his part defensively.

Grade: C-

Jordan Smith: Smith saw seven minutes and posted four points, including a strong drive to the rim near the game's end.

Grade: B+

Will Decorah: The former team manager saw some action and had two assists to go along with sinking one free throw.

Grade: B-

Jackson Bax: He made it onto the Badgers over me in the walk-on tryout held two weeks ago. The spirit of CURT HOGG: DIVISION-I ATHLETE lives on through you, young Jackson Bax. For this alone:

Grade: A+++


As a whole, the Badgers' offense looked fluid and their depth was a huge positive. That said, it was UW-River Falls, but it makes no sense to knock the Badgers for playing well and winning by 55 against a team they were supposed to dominate.

Grade: A-

These were fun, I hope you enjoy them and, as the season goes on, I hope to get these out after all games. Let the basketball commence!