The Wisconsin Badgers started their season off with a bang, defeating the Arkansas State Red Hawks 105-76, which is the most points they’ve scored in the Greg Gard era, topping their efforts in 2018 against Savannah State, where they dropped 101 points.
In the win, the Badgers rotated heavily, playing 12 players in the first half, with four scoring in double figures on the day.
Chucky Hepburn led the way with 20 points, while transfer forward A.J. Storr scored 15 and freshman guard John Blackwell scored 12 in their debuts.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 105-76 win over Arkansas State.
Chucky Hepburn’s decision-making
Last season, amongst a team lacking scoring, guard Chucky Hepburn was often put in tough situations, which led to some inconsistent decision-making, especially in crunch time.
While there wasn’t any crunch time on Monday, I was pleased with Hepburn’s decision-making, as the guard showcased the ability to make good passes, while also turning on his aggressiveness.
In the first half, I felt that Hepburn seemed a little more passive, scoring six points on 3/5 shooting, but consistently looking for teammates, which was best seen when he tried hitting Steven Crowl on a pick and roll when he probably should’ve taken the layup.
But, Hepburn turned up the heat to start the second half, scoring seven early points with a fadeaway shot out of the post, two free throws, and a walk-in three pointer.
Hepburn finished the second half with 14 points on 4/5 shooting, scoring in an array of ways, while distributing the ball well for four assists as well in 12 minutes of action.
If the Badgers get this version of Hepburn on a nightly basis, their offense will be in good hands.
A Kohl Center record
In the win, the Badgers set a Kohl Center record of 105 points, breaking the previous record of 103 points on November 19th, 2013.
It wasn’t only one player, as the Badgers saw 12 players score, including four in double figures: Chucky Hepburn (20 points), A.J. Storr (15 points), Max Klesmit (14 points), and John Blackwell (12 points).
The points came in a variety of ways, as the Badgers scored 56 in the first half... without a single three-pointer.
Instead, UW focused on the paint, hitting 22/34 of their shots and 12/18 of their free shots, while missing all three shots from beyond the arc.
The narrative shifted in the second half, as the Badgers were even hotter, hitting 17/26 of their shots and 6/9 from distance, ultimately finishing with 105 points.
After their offense struggled to score last season, it’s good to see Wisconsin find the basket in a variety of ways and create a number of open shots around the court.
They’ll have to replicate it against tougher defenses, but it was definitely a good start for the Badgers offense.
The new guys
We saw it during the exhibition matchup, but the Badgers’ new faces were going to play a fairly big role this year.
That happened against Arkansas State as well, as the Badgers saw A.J. Storr score 15 points, including nine early, hitting whatever was given to him.
Additionally, John Blackwell poured in 12 of his own, while Nolan Winter was a perfect 3/3 from the field.
Storr’s ability to find his shot is impressive. The Badgers were missing creators on the offensive end last season and now add a player who I believe will end as the team’s leading scorer in 2023.
The wing also earned a steal and a block on the defensive end, while recording a nice assist to the outside for a Max Klesmit three-pointer.
Storr will be depended upon to be an efficient scorer and sparkplug for the Badgers, and he continued that with his performance on Monday.
Blackwell was especially impressive, showcasing his IQ in a great debut for the freshman.
The guard made an immediate impact, cutting for a basket, while getting fouled on a putback at the rim on consecutive possessions.
Additionally, Blackwell showed true confidence shooting the ball, hitting a deep two and a three-pointer, while getting fouled on another attempt.
It’ll be a learning process for the freshman, just like with every young player, but Blackwell has consistently shown high tenacity, while his IQ continues to be seen on the court.
It’s no surprise why he’s quickly earned the trust of head coach Greg Gard as the second guard off the bench.
Nolan Winter also had himself an impressive start in 15 minutes, hitting all three of his field goals for six points, while racking up seven rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
He was the first player off the bench for the Badgers and likely serves as the top forward to replace Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl.
The Badgers needed some firepower after last season’s issues, and they have that with their new faces.