Four Badgers scored in double figures as Wisconsin (3-3) evened its record to .500 early on this season after three straight losses to ranked opponents.
“Obviously, extremely proud of our guys, having three pretty tough games here back to back to back that we were able to bounce back,” head coach Greg Gard said. “I thought the energy and the effort was really good. We got better as the game went on with some execution things on both ends of the floor, but just really liked how we approached it, how we played.”
True freshman Brad Davison scored a career-high and game-high 19 points on seven of eight shooting, including five of six from three-point range. Fourteen of those came in the second half where he did not miss a shot.
Redshirt junior Ethan Happ scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the victory, while sophomore guards Brevin Pritzl and D’Mitrik Trice combined for 22 (12 and 10, respectively).
Three other freshman besides Davison contributed significantly in the win.
Redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford did not score a point but made his presence felt with seven rebounds and dished out a team-high five assists.
True freshman Nate Reuvers officially burned his redshirt, playing in 14 minutes and made his time on the court count for the Badgers. Like Ford, he did not score but registered six rebounds and two assists.
“I thought he was active tonight,” Gard said. “I know he goes 0 for 6 [shooting]. I’m sure he was a little jittery, but man was he active. I mean, six rebounds, he took a charge. He was in the right position most of the time. I thought for a debut, knowing he probably didn’t sleep last night because he was probably a little nervous, that he did a lot of good things. His upside is terrific. He’s only going to get better as he gets more experience.”
Head coach Greg Gard said it was a decision in the making for the past few weeks with multiple factors at play.
“I think we’ve evaluated as we went through the first three, four, five games. I wanted to see us against different competition and obviously, Xavier, Baylor and UCLA presented different things that we hadn’t seen earlier,” Gard said. “And also, watching his evolution.
“I thought he had a terrific summer. I thought he was really good in Australia and New Zealand. Then I thought he sort of hit a wall in September and October. I don’t know if starting school just having more on his plate, he kind of dissipated or disappeared. Then I thought in November, here he’s really come on and started really practiced well. He’s just bring a dimension that we really need. He can hep this team.”
Guard Kobe King contributed eight points, including hitting both of his three-point attempts, in 20 minutes of play.
As a team, Wisconsin shot 50 percent (27 of 54) from the field, 10 of 19 from three-point range.
Forward Bryce Nze led Milwaukee (4-2) with 10 points and seven rebounds, with forward Brett Prahl scoring all eight points in the first half. The Panthers shot 45.1 percent from the field for the game.
Wisconsin led 28-23 at halftime, though only shooting 12-of-29 (41.4 percent) and 25 percent (two of eight) from three-point range. The game was tied at 21 with 5:01 remaining in the first half before UW went on a 7-2 run to finish the first 20 minutes.
Happ registered eight points and six rebounds in 17 minutes. Davison and Brevin Pritzl each tallied five points each. Reuvers did not hit a shot in five attempts but recorded three rebounds and two assists in his first seven minutes of the season.
“It was a great experience to play for my first time. I have just been working on practice and always try to be ready for this moment,” Reuvers said. “Once you get into the game, those nerves they really go away.”
Milwaukee cooled off, going two of its last 11 in the final 7:03 of the first half. The Panthers shot 42.3 percent (11 of 26). Prahl connected on all four shots while also grabbing two rebounds. Jeremiah Bell, who hit the last-second shot before the half, scored five points and registered two rebounds.
The Badgers started off the second half with a 16-4 run in the first six-plus minutes to open the lead to 44-27 with 12:23 remaining in the game after Trice’s three-pointer. At one point, UW hit seven of nine field goals and shot 60 percent (15 of 25) overall in the final 20 minutes.
“I think it was huge for all of us just to see the shots go in,” Davison said. “I think it really kind of carried over to our defense in the second half. We started getting stops in a row, which we call kills, which kind of allowed us to separate ourselves there from Milwaukee.
“Not only does it give the shooters confidence, but it gives the post players confidence, too, that if they kick it out, they’ll knock down shots because our post players definitely draw a lot of attention, so that was big all around for our team.”
Davison scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half, not missing on any of his five shot opportunities. Four of those were from three-point range.
“He’s a great player. You’d love to have him on your team. You hate to play against him because he plays with great intensity,” Milwaukee head coach Pat Baldwin said. “He’s a winner, and he’s a type of kid that you want on your team because he’s going to help you in many different ways. So certainly tonight he proved that in making open shots and being consistent with his effort.”
Trice and Pritzl combined for 13 points in the second half, while King drained two three-pointers with the shot clock winding down in both attempts.
Wisconsin will face Virginia on Nov. 27 in Charlottesville, Va.