Ed. note: This is a timely opportunity to welcome Parker Gabriel aboard, and please join me in doing so. Parker and I covered several UW events together over the past several years while he wrote for Daily Cardinal and I for The Badger Herald. We're setting those competitive differences aside, and Parker will be covering basketball games and practices for us throughout the window. I'm fully confident you'll enjoy his contributions.
MADISON -- Wisconsin got about what you might expect out of an exhibition game Wednesday night at the Kohl Center. The 80-51 win over UW-Platteville provided glimpses of potential, lots of different personnel groupings and, of course, plenty of teaching moments.
The Badgers had moments where they overwhelmed the Pioneers, but often appeared to be feeling out their first competitive competition since a five-game swing through Canada in August. Senior guard Ben Brust led all scorers with 20 points (6-of-11 overall, 2-of-6 from 3-point range), including 14 in the second half.
The Pioneers came out shooting the ball well, leading on and off early and trailed just 20-18 nine minutes into the game. Wisconsin, though, went on a 13-0 run over the next 3:54 to push the lead to 33-18. In that stretch, UW showed good rhythm and finished several times in transition, getting crisp passing between Brust and redshirt junior guard Josh Gasser.
Gasser, continuing his comeback from a torn ACL suffered just before the regular season a year ago, did not like the way UW defended early in the game, though head coach Bo Ryan gave some of the credit to the Pioneers.
"They hit tough shots, Ryan said. "That's going to happen, especially at Division III there are so many good perimeter shooters and they're a little different type lineups that you face."
Wisconsin went cold late in the first half and early in the second, at one point missing 10 of 11 field goal chances as a team, before a key sequence from true freshman Nigel Hayes (eight points, six rebounds) seemed to get the Badgers back in rhythm seven minutes into the second half.
UW led 46-40 when Hayes collected a missed 3-point attempt from George Marshall and finished on a put-back. He followed that by getting another basket in transition after Brust came up with a long rebound and found him on a nice feed toward the rim. The Badgers led by double-digits the rest of the way.
Hayes was a force on the offensive glass, where he collected five of his six rebounds over 14 minutes of playing time.
"He positioned himself well, he's strong, he finished," Ryan said. "A couple times early he was a little tight. He showed he's here for a reason."
Ryan used 15 players, including nine that played at least 10 minutes. That frequent rotation of players appeared to be part of the problem for UW, particularly in the first half.
"We make a move and then I start putting other guys in and you lose some continuity, it happens," Ryan said. "In this instance, we were able to get it back. I'm still trying to figure out who's going to grab the minutes. Every coach is at this time."
Part of the increased efficiency in the second half came because the Badgers started hitting shots from the outside. After connecting on just one of 11 3-point attempts in the first half and went 22 minutes in the middle of the game without a make, Wisconsin finished 6-of-10.
Brust and Dekker finished as the only two UW scorers in double-figures, but four others (redshirt junior center Frank Kaminsky, junior guard Traevon Jackson, Gasser and Hayes) each finished with at least seven.
"We needed to get out there and play," Brust said. "We'll go back and go through it and get better. That's why you play these games."
Notes and observations:
-- Gasser looked good in his return to action at the Kohl Center. He finished with seven points and three assists and a steal in 25 minutes of action and looked assertive both in the half-court and in transition.
"He didn't shy away from anything," Ryan said.
During UW's 17-4 first-half run, Gasser looked perfectly comfortable executing tic-tac-toe passing sequences with Brust and Dekker.
"I definitely felt better today. Every week a little bit better," Gasser said.
-- Kaminsky, who has been limited over the last couple of weeks by a foot injury, started fast. The 7-footer hit his first four shots and finished with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting. After playing 14 minutes in the first half, the Lisle, Ill., native played just four in the second half. He also tallied three blocks.
-- As a team, the Badgers made 17 of 20 free throws (85 percent). A year ago, UW shot just 63.5 percent at the line and really hampered its chances in close games.