MADISON — The 2017-18 men’s basketball season started off on the right foot, albeit with some expected hiccups, for the unranked Wisconsin Badgers. UW defeated the South Carolina State Bulldogs 85–50 on Friday night at the Kohl Center.
For the game, Wisconsin shot 57.1 percent from the field, including 10-of-23 from three-point range. The Badgers out-rebounded the Bulldogs 41–22 and dominated the points in the paint 38–8.
“Obviously, it’s good to have the first regular-season one under our belt, and I think we saw some good things from a variety of guys,” head coach Greg Gard said. “I think a little bit of freshman, first-time regular-season game moments at certain times, but happy with how we were able to adjust and catch ourselves and recollect at times when we got a little ragged, got off track, specifically at the start of the second half. But some good things, lot of things we’ll be able to learn from.”
Ethan Happ started his redshirt junior season on a strong note, registering a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds. He shot 8-of-11 from the field, though only 4-of-9 from the free-throw line.
Junior forward Andy Van Vliet recorded 18 points and eight rebounds, showing his presence from three-point range in hitting four of five three-pointers.
“Tonight felt good,” Van Vliet said. “I was a little bit nervous before, which I think is normal, but it felt good to be on the floor and then after two years of not really playing to finally be playing in the Kohl Center, it’s a blessing.”
Guard Brevin Pritzl also scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-6 from downtown).
“I think [Van Vliet and Pritzl] both obviously are very good shooters, so they were opportunistic in terms of finding themselves open,” Gard said. “I thought the team did a good job of finding those guys.
“Obviously, Andy at his size is, specifically in the perimeter with his ability to pass and then look over and shoot over people. Brevin practiced pretty well the past couple of days so I was kind of expecting that he would play well, but there's several things for both of them we got to get better at, specifically on the defensive end where we can clean up and callous up.”
Guard D’Mitrik Trice knocked down five of nine shots for 13 points and dished out five assists.
As customary in a season opener, there was a hint of sloppiness from both sides, as South Carolina State and Wisconsin committed 14 and 13 turnovers, respectively.
“There are several things defensively we’ll clean up and look at on film. There are several things offensively. Thirteen turnovers, we got to get some of those cleaned up,” Gard said. “We had a lot of shots around the rim where we didn’t finish at times, missed some guys, had some miscommunication at times, so there’s going to be a litany of things.”
South Carolina State senior guard Donte Wright score a team-high 13 points in the loss.
Wisconsin took a 46–29 lead into halftime. Happ scored 12 points, with both Pritzl and Van Vliet notching 10 points in the first 20 minutes.
UW hit 18 of 29 from the field in the first half (62.1 percent) including six of 13 from beyond the three-point stripe. Gard’s squad also had six turnovers in the first half, however.
The Badgers held the Bulldogs to 37-percent shooting (10-of-27).
In the second half, the Badgers cooled down, at one point only connecting on four of 15 shots about 11 minutes into the second half.
South Carolina State pulled within 11 points and a 55–44 score after Justin Jones hit a three-pointer with 11:44 left in the game.
UW then got hot, overwhelming South Carolina State on a 30–6 run the rest of the game, with Van Vliet connecting on two consecutive three-point shots to excite the 17,287 in attendance and make it 66–46 with 8:03 remaining in the game.
South Carolina State did not score in the last 3:14 of the second half.