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Wisconsin basketball: McNeese State recap

Wisconsin was able to lasso in the Cowboys Wednesday night, 83-63.

Photo by Dan Sanger

After splitting the first two games of the season, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team entered Wednesday night’s matchup with the McNeese State Cowboys with a .500 record. In the confines of the Kohl Center, Wisconsin exited 20 point victors against the members of the Southland Conference, 83-63.

In the early part of the game McNeese State attacked inside to take a quick lead. Forward Sha’markus Kennedy had seven of the Cowboy’s first nine points while Wisconsin was ice cold shooting to open the game. Wisconsin trailed for the vast majority of the first half, in fact, McNeese State led for over 14 minutes of the first half while Wisconsin struggled offensively. Kennedy would finish the half with 18 points, already eclipsing his season average.

Eventually Wisconsin was able to find their footing, and went into halftime with a 37-34 lead. Unlikely contributor Walt McGrory was a huge lift off the bench in the first half with nine points. With Brevin Pritzl, Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers all in early foul trouble, Brad Davison and McGrory kept the Badgers afloat.

In the second half, Wisconsin started off hot with three straight three-point makes by D’Mitrik Trice and Brevin Pritzl, both of which struggled shooting in the first half. The early shooting success in the half translated over to the rest of the team.

Midway through the second half, Wisconsin scored ten straight buckets on a 15-3 run. That run helped Wisconsin pull away from the Cowboys and seize control of the game. Wisconsin spread the ball around nicely during that time, as Aleem Ford, Trice and Pritzl all showed out during the stretch and the Badgers cruised the rest of the way to win 83-63.

Notable stat lines:

  • Brad Davison —> 24 points (7-of-8 from the floor), three rebounds, two assists, four steals
  • Aleem Ford —> 16 points (7-of-11 from the floor), two rebounds
  • Brevin Pritzl —> 13 points (4-of-9 from the floor), three rebounds, two assists
  • Sha’markus Kennedy (McNeese State) —> 20 points, five rebounds, three assists.

Three things that stood out

No. 1: Walt McGrory

With Kobe King sidelined with an ankle injury, and Brevin Pritzl accruing two quick fouls, walk-on Walt McGrory was one of the first players off of the bench. In 24 minutes of action the junior guard scored a career high nine points, all in the first half, and was a steadying presence on the court. While I doubt he will see the same number of minutes moving forward, it was a pleasant surprise to see him play so well in meaningful time. Greg Gard told the media in the postgame that McGrory had earned time, regardless of King’s injury, and that he had planned to get him on the court tonight.

No. 2: Assist you very much

Throughout the game Wisconsin did a nice job of distributing the wealth. The Badgers passed very well, and the shooting eventually came around because of it. Wisconsin finished the game with 19 assists, a large improvement from the 7.5 team average this season. Without Ethan Happ, the Badgers will need to continue the strong passing to maintain success.

No. 3: A tale of two halves

The first half was a struggle. Wisconsin only shot 44% from the field and 23% from three-point range. While Wisconsin did not turn the ball over much, they were out of sync for most of the half with foul trouble. The second half was like a grease fire though. Wisconsin came out and shot 60.7% from the floor and 46.7% from behind the arc. With a big-time contest against rival Marquette looming, Wisconsin will need to harness some of that second half mojo to take down the Golden Eagles.