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Wisconsin men’s basketball: UW-Whitewater exhibition

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The Badgers take down UW-Whitewater 76-50 in first game of the season.

UW-Whitewater v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

With a completely revamped roster, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team was back in action for the first time in the 2021-2022 season for an exhibition game versus UW-Whitewater.

This year’s team features 12 underclassmen, including five true freshmen on the roster. Against their Division III opponent, the Badgers young roster won out, handling the Warhawks 76-50.

After a rather slow start, a couple of nice plays by Jonathan Davis and a defensive steal by Chucky Hepburn led to an easy layup that allowed the Badgers to take a five-point lead at the first media timeout.

Over the next handful of minutes, Wisconsin was able to pull away a little bit behind a spread-out scoring attack and some good defense. Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl went on to combine for 20 points in the first half, while Brad Davison hit a deep three to give Wisconsin a 20-point advantage at the half.

After the break, UW-Whitewater kept things relatively even for the first eight minutes as the Badgers struggled with five early turnovers. It wasn’t until Wahl led a 9-0 run that Wisconsin was able to pull away a little bit from the Warhawks and push their lead to 31.

Greg Gard unloaded the bench from that point on as the Badgers were able to coast to a relatively easy 26 point win.

Notable stat lines:

  • Steven Crowl —> 18 points (7-of-9 from the floor), six rebounds
  • Tyler Wahl —> 10 points (5-of-7 from the floor), four rebounds, two blocks
  • Brad Davison —> 11 points (3-of-5 from the floor), two rebounds, two assists
  • Derek Gray (UW-Whitewater) —> 17 points (7-of-15 from the floor), three rebounds

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Starting lineup + rotation

The Badgers went big against UW-Whitewater. With both of their traditional point guards banged up for a large chunk of camp, Greg Gard went with Johnny Davis and fifth-year senior Brad Davison as the guard tandem. At the forward positions junior Tyler Wahl, sophomore forward Ben Carlson got the nod, with Steven Crowl at center.

Davis and Davison both stand 6-foot-4, while Wahl and Carlson are each listed at 6-foot-9. That is a rather large starting lineup, especially when paired with the 7-footer Crowl.

Beyond the initial five, it was walk-on Carter Gilmore who was first off the bench for the Badgers. In the next wave, it was Chucky Hepburn, Jahcobi Neath and Chris Vogt who saw time early. Markus Ilver and Lorne Bowman also earned some early run with the top group off the bench as well.

Late in the game, the rest of the roster also got in on the action. Freshmen Matthew Mors and Chris Hodges saw some time, but they might be redshirt candidates given the large number of forwards seemingly ahead of them in the rotation.

No. 2: Inside-out attack

It was apparent that Gard wanted his group to work the ball inside. The Badgers did a good job of getting post touches in the first half, and they converted. Overall the team shot 53% from the floor and were 42% beyond the arc in the first stanza.

In the second half, they cooled off a bit but still finished shooting 44% from the floor overall. They only shot 60% from the free-throw line, but the fact that they got to the line 20 times was nice to see.

Overall, Wisconsin shot the ball well for their first action of the year. Considering the robust number of transfers and young talent, to see them shoot the ball at a relatively high level in the first half is a positive sign, regardless of the opponent. There are still communication issues and other nuances that will need to be cleaned up on the offensive end, but that is why exhibitions are baked into the schedule.

On an individual level, after an uneven start, Crowl was able to settle into a rhythm. He is still rather raw at this point, but he has some skill on the offensive end that was evident in this game. It is hard to take too much away from his performance given the level of competition, but he hunted his shot frequently, both inside and from deep. He is more of a finesse big at this point, but the talent is there. If he can consistently give the Badgers an inside-scoring threat to go along with Davis and Davison, and the swiss-army knife Wahl, it could provide a nice lift to the roster.

No. 3: Defense + turnovers

Defensively, I thought that Vogt showed some flashes as a shot-blocker (four for the game), and I also liked Hepburn’s ability on the defensive end as well from his guard position.

As a team, the Badgers held UW-Whitewater to 31% shooting and forced 13 turnovers, which translated to 10 fast break points. There were times where they were not overly physical inside, but with a young group of bigs, that is to be expected early in the season. How they look once Big Ten play rolls around will be the real question.

One of the most glaring areas of needed improvement from this game was offensive turnovers though. The Badgers turned it over 17 times. Whitewater was unable to take advantage of the Wisconsin miscues, but it will need to be cleaned up come the regular season.

Up next: The Badgers will officially start their season on Tuesday, November 9 against St. Francis College (Brooklyn). Tip-time is set for 7 p.m. CT and will be aired on BTN+.