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Back on track: Badgers bounce back to pound Siena, 92-65

The Badgers were able to put out the fire from their season-opening loss with a win over Siena on Sunday.

MADISON -- Perhaps it was nothing more than a remake of the movie Freaky Friday. Or, perhaps, it really was a cause for concern.

Whatever the case was in Wisconsin's logic-defying upset loss in the season opener two nights before, it spelled trouble for head coach Jimmy Patsos and his Siena Saints coming into their contest at the Kohl Center on Sunday.

"I sensed trouble brewing Friday night about two minutes after the loss here to Western Illinois," Patsos said. "Bo Ryan's teams are too good. They're going to do that once a year, maybe."

Behind career nights from guard Bronson Koenig and forward Vitto Brown, Wisconsin (1-1) looked nothing like its previous shell-shocked self in rolling to a 92-65 victory over the Saints (0-2).

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde displayed by the Badgers in their first two games came as no surprise to Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan.

"I said it earlier: We’re going to have some nights where we’re going to look pretty dog-gone good and some nights where it might be, ‘Are those guys impersonating Wisconsin basketball players?’" Ryan said. "We’re going to have a couple of those nights. But we’re going to work through them."

Koenig had his way all night, leading the Badgers with a career-high 23 points, five rebounds and four assists. Brown added a personal-best 16 points of his own to go along with seven rebounds as No. 17 Wisconsin shot 58.5 percent as a team.

The second leg of a three-game, five-day stretch for the Badgers, the short layoff and ability to erase the Western Illinois game from memory came as a relief.

"One of the first thoughts that went through my head after that game was, ‘Thank God we got another game in two days to prove ourselves,'" Badgers guard Zak Showalter said. "Obviously that was pretty embarrassing, but we know what we’ve got and what we’re capable of and I think we responded pretty well."

Surely, Saturday's team practice helped the Badgers' response.

"Our coaches don’t sugar-coat anything, so they tell us what we need to do and stuff like that," Koenig said. "I thought we had a great day of practice, defensively at least, and we came out tonight with more energy."

Following Wisconsin's performance on Friday, there was much to criticize, but Ryan specifically honed in on free throw shooting and defense. Against the Saints, the Badgers were able to relocate those two staples of their program.

Getting to the charity stripe early and often, the Badgers made 25 of 30 free throw attempts while limiting the Saints to under 40 percent shooting (22-of-56), including a meager three of 16 from three-point range.

Forward Nigel Hayes added 14 points on five-of-six shooting and four assists, while both Showalter and forward Ethan Happ posted lines of eight points and four rebounds each.

The night, however, was Koenig's to be had.

It was a drive to the rim. Then, it was a pull-up three. After that, a turnaround jumper. Even kissing the Sterling gently off the glass, everything was falling for the junior guard.

Koenig finished eight of 14 from the field and hit three of his six three-point attempts while sinking all four free throws. Of his five two-point field goals, three came via layups, and each of his three-pointers came from virtually the same spot on the floor.

Even on a career night for himself, Koenig was quick to point out the boost that Brown's offense provided.

"It makes my job a lot easier and it makes our team a lot better being a dual threat like that."

"It makes my job a lot easier and it makes our team a lot better being a dual threat like that," Koenig said of Brown. "Being able to come off the ball screen and if they’re trying to key on me or pressure me, then I always have a guy to throw it back to who can either roll or pop and hit a jump shot, kind of like the luxury that we had with Frank."

The Badgers were not without fault, however. While cutting down on open looks allowed on defense, Wisconsin committed 23 fouls leading to 27 Siena free throw attempts and gave up 34 points in the paint after allowing 30 against Western Illinois.

Improved, but nowhere near perfect.

"I thought we did a better job today, because I don’t think you could really get much worse than Friday," Koenig said of the Badgers defensive output. "We still got a long ways to go, though."

Offensively, Wisconsin avenged the Friday the 13th ghosts that loomed around to the Kohl Center rims against Western Illinois. The Badgers connected on 17-of-25 field goal attempts and 13-of-14 free throws in their 49-point second half.

For the home crowd, Siena's quick start brought about nervous flashbacks to Friday's loss. With 12:20 remaining in the first half, Siena gained a 16-13 lead, but Brown hit two jumpers to give Wisconsin the lead and spur a 18-4 run.

The worries were limited to those sitting on the seats however.

"After 44 years, if you think that some team is going to have me panic: no," Ryan said. "So, therefore, why should the players? They’re the ones playing and they’re the ones that have something to say about it, so I would hope they didn’t.

"Or if they did and they played that well, hey, let’s have a panic party."

After Brown's consecutive baskets, Koenig buried a three-pointer and then Charlie Thomas, who posted career highs of seven points and five rebounds on his 18th birthday, scored a layup to cap a 12-3 run. Behind a defensive stand that held the Saints without a field goal for five minutes and eight seconds, the Badgers separated for a 33-22 lead.

Wisconsin was without Hayes for a majority of the first half after the junior forward picked up his second personal foul at the 14:28 mark. Showalter and Happ also found themselves in foul trouble, but their replacements didn't miss a beat.

"Your idea is to not pick up two (fouls in the first half) and if you do, then you’re probably sitting," Ryan said. "We weren’t put into a position where we had to do anything drastic with the guys that had a couple fouls. Fortunately, because the guys were taking care of business. That’s why it’s a team."

Hayes' absence gave Brown an opportunity to show off his new toy: extended range. Brown buried three jumpers and finished the half with 10 points and four rebounds. Koenig led all scorers with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from deep.

Zak Showalter soared for a put-back dunk over a crowd of defenders just before the buzzer to give Wisconsin a 43-28 halftime lead.

A 10-0 run to open the second half all but sealed the deal for the Badgers.

Ryan effectively used the game as a redshirt bonfire. Freshmen Alex Illikainen and Brevin Prtizl made their debuts Sunday, removing any possibility of a redshirt season for either. Illikainen finished with six points and Pritzl saw four minutes of action.

A redshirt was never in mind regarding guard Khalil Iverson, and the freshman filled out the stat sheet once again in 25 minutes of action. Iverson scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, had two assists and blocked one shot.

Bookending this opening weekend were two basketball performances that were polar opposites. It's likely that not even Ryan himself knows which version of the Badgers will appear when the team takes on North Dakota at home on Tuesday.