Wisconsin got off to a strong start, spearheaded by forward Tyler Wahl, who scored on the initial drive before stealing a pass from Stanford big man James Keefe for a dunk, giving the Badgers a 7-2 lead within the first two minutes.
Over the next few minutes, as Wisconsin faced a cold 0/8 streak from the field, Stanford slowly crept back into the fold, as Harrison Ingram, Spencer Jones, and Michael Jones, each hit close shots to give the Cardinal an 8-7 at the 15-minute mark.
Chucky Hepburn snapped the cold streak, hitting a pull-up jumper after missing two three-pointers to begin the game.
The two teams traded points following that, which was completed by a Jordan Davis three-pointer that banked in to give Wisconsin a 14-12 lead before a media timeout.
Wisconsin’s ball movement was lacking at times early, with several isolation drives that resulted in inefficient offense, but both teams played strong defense to start the game.
Tyler Wahl had a strong start, shooting 3/5 and rebounding from two poor, contested shot attempts with a ferocious dunk off a steal.
Connor Essegian checked in early for the Badgers, as Max Klesmit picked up two quick fouls, playing quality minutes for Wisconsin, tying for the team-lead 16 first-half minutes.
Essegian, known for his scoring ability, shot 2/5 from the field and 1/2 from three, but displayed defensive intensity as well.
Badger Nation, you were awesome— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 12, 2022
“This is a huge kickoff to the season, which is what we wanted. A spotlight on our sports.” - Greg Gard pic.twitter.com/vQHf6vDr0q
Jordan Davis continued to display his knack for cutting to the rim, taking a pass from Steven Crowl for an and-1, providing the Badgers a 31-18 lead near the end of the first half, capping off a seven-point run for Wisconsin to give them their biggest lead of the game.
Chucky Hepburn struggled in the first half, shooting just 1/7 from the field, while missing all four of his three-point attempts.
Hepburn appeared to be less aggressive in the first half, setting for tougher shots, which led to struggles on the offensive end before the last minutes of the half.
When Hepburn was aggressive though, he made a strong drive before stopping on a dime for the sweet pull-up jumper mentioned above.
Hepburn did have three assists in the first half, kicking the ball out after drawing defenders on a number of his drives, as he adjusted from his slow start.
That led to a number of open shots, including a three-point make from center Steven Crowl, who had a strong first half with seven points and six rebounds, as well as a team-high +- of 13, tying with Hepburn.
The Cardinal started the second half strong, making their first five shots to pull within a 39-32 lead after forward Brandon Angel made a free throw.
Chucky Hepburn hit a jumper in response, while Connor Essegian was money on a three-pointer on the ensuing drive, stretching the Wisconsin lead to 44-32 with 13:01 remaining in the half.
However, Wisconsin underwent a rough stretch after that, missing every field goal over the next 5:23, going 0/8 during the stretch, while committing two turnovers as well.
During that time, Stanford inched back, cutting the lead to 45-40 with a Harrison Ingram putback with 8:22 remaining in the game.
But, Stanford couldn’t build on the momentum, missing eight consecutive shots over a 4:45 stretch.
The trend of cold stretches was common on Friday as both teams fielded strong defensive performances throughout the game, making it hard to sustain any momentum for the majority of the time.
Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl, and Jordan Davis each had a basket during Stanford’s cold stretch, boosting Wisconsin’s lead back to double-digits with under four and a half minutes remaining.
Afterward, Stanford could never recover, as Wisconsin maintained at least a nine-point lead for the rest of the game, having answers when the Cardinal were able to score, winning 60-50.
The defensive intensity was clear throughout the game, as Wisconsin shot just 37.3% from the field and 25% from three, while Stanford shot 36.2% overall and 6.4% from deep.
Neither team could fully capitalize on their opportunities at the foul line, as Wisconsin shot 65.3% from the line, while Stanford only converted 61.1% of their opportunities.
Wisconsin had a good gameplan for former five-star recruit Harrison Ingram, as the Stanford forward scored only six points on 25% shooting, forcing other players to attempt to create for themselves, resulting in the poor efficiency.
While the Badgers’ offense struggled from the field, even on open looks, they built well from their strong defensive performance on Monday in their season-opener against South Dakota, especially from three. Overall, the Badgers forced Stanford to 1/16 shooting from deep.
Once again, Tyler Wahl led Wisconsin with 17 points on 6/13 shooting, while Jordan Davis made the most of his minutes with 13 points on 5/9 shooting.
Connor Essegian led the reserves with 23 minutes, although his playing time declined in the second half due to Max Klesmit, whose foul trouble forced him to be on the court for just four minutes.
Klesmit returned to play 13 minutes in the second half, while Essegian was limited to just seven minutes after playing 16 minutes in the first half.
Regardless, it’s a good sign for Essegian, who seems to be quickly earning head coach Greg Gard’s trust with meaningful minutes.
With the close game, Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl, and Chucky Hepburn played heavy minutes, suiting up for 33, 34, and 35 minutes, respectively.
Despite the ugly offensive performance, Wisconsin showcased their ability to win gritty games, which will certainly be important down the stretch in the Big 10.
But, for now, Wisconsin will carry their two-game win streak back home, where they’ll host Green Bay on Tuesday.