After their game with Louisville was postponed due to COVID-19 complications for the Cardinals, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-1 overall, 0-0 B1G) quickly set up a game with the Rhode Island Rams (3-3 overall, 0-0 A-10) to take its place.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Marquette on Friday, the Badgers had plenty to clean up on both sides of the court, while the Rams came into the game led by 5-foot-10 guard Fatts Russell, who was averaging nearly 18 points per game.
Against Rhode Island, Wisconsin would play much better — especially in the first half — and take home a 73 to 62 as they held Russell to only eight points.
In the opening minutes of the game it was shooting guard Brad Davison who carried the load for the Badgers. After a tough Marquette game where he did not make a field goal and fouled out, Davison connected on his first three-point attempts to give Wisconsin a 12-4 lead with just under 13 minutes to play.
Over the course of the next few minutes, Brad Davison would continue to pour it on and extend the Wisconsin lead to 11, as Wisconsin did a phenomenal job on the defensive end of the court. Aleem Ford would go out with his third foul at around the eight minute mark, giving more time on the court for Tyler Wahl.
Outside of Davison, the rest of the Badgers struggled shooting from the field during the latter stages of the first half, other than a monster dunk by Micah Potter.
At the half Wisconsin held a 17-point advantage, 33-16, with Davison outscoring the entire Rhode Island team at the break. Rhode Island struggled from the field shooting only 25.9%, and going 0-of-8 from three-point range.
LEADERS#Badgers— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 9, 2020
Brad Davison: 17 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Nate Reuvers: 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks
D'Mitrik Trice: 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Fatts Russell: 4 points (2-of-9 shooting), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers
To start the second half, Rhode Island started off strong by making five of their first seven shots to chip away at the Wisconsin lead. The Badgers were able to keep things moving forward though as they made four of their first six shots to give Wisconsin a 45-28 lead with 15:22 remaining.
Following that break in the action, Jonathan Davis put together a really nice sequence with a block (his third of the game at the time) and then a reverse layup on the other end in transition as Wisconsin widened the gap to 22-points.
Badgers and Rams are three fouls away from a grand total of 50. Only a minute left to get there!— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 9, 2020
Rhode Island was able to get into the bonus following that stanza, and they Rams took advantage of some sloppy play by the Badgers to cut the deficit to nine with 5:15 left to play.
Over the next few minutes, Wisconsin would continue to struggle to find any offense until Aleem Ford connected on a big three-pointer to push the lead back to 11. In the end, Wisconsin would hold off the Rams for an 11-point victory, winning 73 to 62.
Notable stat lines:
- Brad Davison —> 23 points (4-of-9 shooting), three rebounds, one assist
- Micah Potter —> 13 points (4-of-10 shooting), seven rebounds, two assists
- Aleem Ford —> 11 points (4-of-8 shooting), one rebound, four fouls
- Fatts Russell —> 8 points (3-of-14 shooting), five rebounds, one assist
Three things that stood out
No. 1: D-fence
In the first half, the Wisconsin defense was excellent. The Badgers communicated extremely well and walled off the interior, a space that Rhode Island generally attacks with their explosive guards.
PPP: #Badgers 0.92, Rhode Island 0.48. The Rams shot 26% and had 11 turnovers in 35 possessions.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) December 9, 2020
During the second half, Rhode Island was able to get things going though shooting over 60% from the field. For a Rams team that came into the game averaging 79 points per game, a collective team effort by the Badgers held not only Fatts Russell in check, but held the entire team down for most of the game.
Wisconsin has played relatively good defense all season long, but the Badgers were much better at not committing silly fouls in the first half, a statistic that ultimately doomed them against Marquette the game prior. In the second half Wisconsin was a little more undisciplined, resulting in Rhode Island working their way into the bonus halfway through the half, but ultimately the performance was an improvement against a solid team.
Heading into a potentially much tougher game against Louisville and in a stacked Big Ten Conference, Wisconsin’s defense will need to mirror the first half if they want to reach their full potential.
No. 2: Block king
Coming into the game needing only one block in order to take control of the all-time record for blocks in school history, Nate Reuvers made relatively quick work of securing his spot in Wisconsin history at the 9:30 mark with a block of Jeremy Sheppard at the rim.
Nate Reuvers may not be a prototypical big man in terms of his ability to clean up on the glass, but he has consistently been great as a rim protector for the Badgers during his career. Reuvers ability to block shots has gradually improved since his freshman season, climbing from .9 to 1.8 and then 1.9 blocks per game last season. Thus far, Reuvers has been even better (2.6 per game with Wednesday included), as he looks poised to distance himself from the record previously set by Ethan Happ.
With that block Nate Reuvers breaks Ethan Happ's record and is now the Wisconsin Badgers Block King!— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 9, 2020
No. 3: Cruise Control
Wisconsin had full control of the game for the vast majority of the game, staying ahead of Rhode Island for over 38 of the 40 minutes.
Wisconsin seemed to always have an answer when the Rams went on a run, and that is traditionally a strong sign of a good team. Rhode Island got back into the game due to some sloppy play by the Badgers in the second half on both ends of the court, and an extended scoring drought, but this was a nice way for Wisconsin to bounce back from the loss to Marquette.
The Badgers will need to continue to work on some of the fouling woes that continue to pop up (Reuvers, Ford, and Wahl each with four fouls at games end), but overall taking down a solid Atlantic-10 team on short notice shouldn’t be discounted.
Up next: Wisconsin and Louisville are attempting to reschedule their game for as soon as this upcoming Sunday as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. If that game is not able to be played this weekend, the Badgers will be back on the court against North Iowa on Wednesday, December 16. Television information is yet to be released for that contest.