MADISON—So, what do you take away from a 41-point victory over a program ranked by KenPom.com as 345th out of 353 Division I teams?
Wisconsin owned the rebounding, assists and steals, and most importantly, the scoring columns in its 101-60 victory over Savannah State on Thursday night at the Kohl Center—as it should have.
Five Badgers scored in double figures in the win, with the team shooting over 56 percent overall and 70.6 in the first half. The hot start helped Greg Gard’s claim a single-half school record for points in awfully nice fashion.
Let’s break it down a hint more with these takeaways.
Yeah, Savannah State is not good defensively. After giving up 139 points to South Dakota State on Tuesday, including 90 in the first half, they allowed Wisconsin to earn that school record 69 points in the first half.
On top of that, Wisconsin tied for second-most in UW history for three-pointers in a game (16)—plus its 11 in the first 20 minutes tied the school record for threes in a single half.
Sophomore guard Brad Davison scored a season-high 24 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds and four steals. What stands out, after not scoring a point and missing all three field goal and free throw attempts in last Saturday’s loss to Marquette, was the fact he hit on eight of 11 shots. Six of the nine three-pointers connected, another nice bounce back for the backcourt Badger.
“It’s been a long couple of months in trying to get it back, but I put a lot of time into basketball and a lot of time into my shot, so I trust it,” Davison said postgame. “I have confidence in it. Sometimes you just gotta, tough times will come, but tough people last, so I’m just trying to continue to stay confident, trust my shot, and I’ll know they’ll fall.”
Another Davison tangent, but has he drawn a charge since the must-publicized four in the N.C. State game?
D’Mitrik Trice rebounded from a rough three-point shooting performance against Marquette by going four for seven from deep against Savannah State. Trice contributed 14 points and four assists overall, and it showed another sign the redshirt sophomore guard still has a hot hand early on this season.
Ethan Happ did Ethan Happ things. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
Worth noting, he did make four of five free throws and added an impressive six assists in the win.
Nine out of the 11 contests so far this year have resulted in double-doubles for the redshirt senior. UW’s career record for double-doubles is 47 by Joe Franklin (1967-69), and Happ now has 40.
Who also tallied six assists? That would be true freshman Tai Strickland, who saw his heaviest increase in minutes on Thursday.
Since the Red/White Scrimmage, I have been impressed with the first-year guard. Obviously he is still a more raw product than some of his other seasoned teammates in the backcourt, but you have to be pleased with his play on Thursday with the injuries to Trevor Anderson and now Khalil Iverson.
That’s not just because of his career-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including hitting his first three three-point attempts (do they count extra for the two bank shots?). Those six assists—two to Happ, one to Kobe King, one to Davison, one to Brevin Pritzl, and the last one to reserve guard Walt McGrory—showed he has the potential to pass the ball around to different players.
Before Thursday’s game, the most Strickland played was six minutes against Houston Baptist in early November.
“When he’s confident and aggressive, he’s a big time player,” Davison said of Strickland. “He’s going to help us a lot this year. It’s always had a learning curve being a freshman. He’s handled it well. Early in the season, he didn’t play as much, and now he’s kind of getting his shot and he’s taking advantage of every opportunity he gets, whether it’s in practice or in games. You should watch him compete in practice. it’s fun to watch and be around. Coach says if you practice well, you’ll play well and you’ll be on the floor, so you just got to keep doing that, taking things one day at a time. When the opportunities come, just keep taking advantage of them.”
Overall, the team just passed the ball better to create opportunities. Wisconsin dished out 28 assists compared to 10 turnovers. That was the most assists in a home game at the Kohl Center, according to UW.
King played well in place of the injured Khalil Iverson (lower left leg), hitting four of his eight field goal attempts and recording 10 points overall. Iverson’s injury could provide the redshirt freshman guard some extended minutes for these final non-conference matchups. He played 23:29 on Thursday night, the most since playing against Iowa on Nov. 30. In the two games since that win against the Hawkeyes (versus Rutgers, at Marquette), he saw time on the court a combined 19 minutes.
Regarding Iverson’s injury, head coach Greg Gard mentioned he expected his senior guard back “sooner” rather than “later.” On the bench, Iverson was spotted wearing a protective boot around his lower left leg.
“I would expect him to be sooner than later, but I don’t have a definitive day. So all signs for him, he’s going to be fine, but I don’t really know exactly in two days, three days, four days. I don’t have a calendar on that either.”