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Wisconsin basketball game recap: Badgers win exhibition contest with UW-La Crosse

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Wisconsin takes down DIII opponent UW-La Crosse.

Team warm ups for Friday night’s exhibition with UW-La Crosse.
Dan Sanger

Coming off of a season where the Wisconsin men’s basketball team went 23-11 on the year with an early exit in the NCAA Tournament, the Badgers were back in action Friday night against UW-La Crosse in their first and last exhibition game prior to the start of the 2019-2020 season.

The Badgers were able to handle the Eagles 82 to 53. La Crosse was able to stick around for the first ten or so minutes of the first half, but Wisconsin went into halftime with a 43 to 22 lead due to a 15-2 run to end the half.

The Badgers had a scare in the early part of the second half when Brad Davison was injured on a drive to the hoop. He was fouled on the layup and made the free-throw following the play, but went back to the locker room shortly after. He seemed to be favoring his left hand. Davison proceeded to return court side a few minutes later, and was at full capacity for the remainder of the game.

Wisconsin was able to dominate most of the game, with UW-La Crosse only shooting 29% on the game. The Eagles tallest player was 6-foot-7, so Wisconsin obviously had a sizable heigh advantage, but Wisconsin looked good defensively as well.

Notable stat lines:

  • Nate Reuvers —> 15 points (6-of-11 from the field), six rebounds, four blocks.
  • Kobe King —> 14 points (6-of-8 from the field), eight rebounds, five assists, two steals.
  • Brad Davison —> 13 points (5-of-8 from the field), seven rebounds, two assists.
  • Aleem Ford —> 12 points (5-of-8 from the field), three rebounds, two assists.
  • D’Mitrik Trice —> 10 points (3-of-7 from the field), three rebounds, two assists.
  • Tyler Wahl —> Seven points (2-of-4 from the field), seven rebounds, two assists, five blocks.

Three things that stood out

No. 1: Offensive changes

A lot has been made of the Wisconsin losing Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson. Both players were integral parts of the team success a year ago. With their absence, the Badgers looked different offensively than a year ago. The Badgers spread the offensive duties around with all five starters putting up double digit scoring outputs. I expect this to continue this season, with no one player jumping out in the points column.

The Badgers appeared to have larger driving lanes, and attacked the basket better than a year ago. There was a clear difference in talent level, but the attacking mentality was a welcomed sight. Wisconsin also shot 33% from behind the arc, not terrible considering the changes with the three point line and the first real action of the new year. Reuvers noted that having a balanced attack will help the team “keep the defense honest.”

No. 2: Free throws weren’t free.

Wisconsin was one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country last season. That statistic didn’t change much tonight. Wisconsin struggled from the foul line, making only 13 of 26 attempts. The Badgers will need to clean that up with tougher competition on the way. Wisconsin did a good job of creating free throw opportunities, but capitalization is key.

Kobe King noted that the team will be better shooting free throws going forward as they get accustomed to the Kohl Center.

No. 3: A possible rotation

The Badgers gave a glimpse of a possible rotation sans Micah Potter (damn you NCAA). Wisconsin played nine players for the majority of the game. The starting five of D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Kobe King, Aleem Ford, and Nate Reuvers played the primary minutes, but Trevor Anderson, Brevin Pritzl, Tyler Wahl and Joe Hedstrom also saw time.

The Badgers generally had at least one of Davison, King, or Trice out on the court at all times. All three players demonstrated the ability to run the offense and be the lead scorer when called upon.

Trevor Anderson spelled Trice, while Pritzl rotated with King. Wahl played more minutes than Hedstrom, and played well in the second half. Wahl gives Wisconsin a lot of position versatility, and he subtly filled up the stat sheet, but he is still fairly lean at only 214 pounds and that showed at times. I expect him to play a good amount though with Micah Potter awaiting eligibility.

Wisconsin was the presumed favorite in this lopsided matchup, but the Badgers looked solid in their final tune-up before opening against Saint Mary’s on Tuesday. The Gaels are ranked No. 20, and will be a very different step up in competition. We will have more on the opening game of the season on Monday and Tuesday.