The Wisconsin Badgers took on Arkansas State in their season opener on Monday, taking home the win with a final score of 105 to 76, setting a new Kohl Center record for points.
Chucky Hepburn led the team in scoring and assists with 20 points and 6 assists, while A.J. Storr put up 15 points, and Max Klesmit poured in 14 of his own.
The story of the first half was the fast tempo of the Badgers offense, taking control of the game and pushing the ball down the court on almost every possession.
The game began with a strong scoring run from Wisconsin putting them on top 9-0 within the first two minutes with big buckets from Tyler Wahl, A.J. Storr, and Chucky Hepburn, all coming from inside the paint. They used that early push to set the fast and physical tone for the rest of the game.
Storr was the star of the show early as well, racking up nine points within the first four minutes, with four of those points coming from tough contested mid range jumpers.
Early fouls from Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl led to early minutes for both Nolan Winter and Carter Gilmore, who both delivered with tough defense and great work in the paint, fighting for rebounds and keeping strong positioning.
6th man Connor Essegian also faced a tough injury today, falling hard on the floor after trying to box out Arkansas State big man Dyondre Dominguez. He did not end up returning to this game, ending his night with two points in three minutes.
Coming off the bench, guards Isaac Lindsey and John Blackwell played tough and scored a combined 10 points in the first half, with seven coming from Blackwell.
A freshman from Michigan, Blackwell played very well in his first official college game, hitting a nice corner jumper following a back screen and a tough contested layup inside.
Offensively, the Badgers used tons of back screens and pick and rolls to put guards Max Klesmit and Chucky Hepburn in playmaking spots, looking to get the ball in the paint.
Unlike last week, the Badgers utilized the height and strength advantage throughout the first half, attacking where they had the advantage in the paint, tallying 36 first half points in the paint and just three attempts from beyond the arc.
Defensively, the Badgers started strong, forcing back-to-back turnovers on the Red Wolves’ opening possessions, but the buckets slowly started falling for Arkansas State as they kept themselves within 20 points for most of the first half.
Arkansas State’s Freddy Hicks and Caleb Ford had 15 and 9 points respectively, leading their team from the front through 30 minutues. Hicks finished the half with a side step three as time expired, following an amazing turnaround jumper from Chucky Hepburn.
The Badgers went into the locker room up 56-41.
The Badgers began the second half with another 12-2 scoring run, extending their lead to 68-43.
Chucky Hepburn accounted for 7 of those 12 points, with two tough layups and a deep three to put the Badgers up 25 points.
Once again, early fouls from Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl got them in foul trouble early in the second, and freshman Nolan Winter stepped in and played great, racking 4 boards and 2 points, filling the hole from Crowl’s minutes.
The Badgers continued their high tempo attack, continuing to push the ball down the court fast, constantly keeping the Red Wolves on their toes. Additionally, they added in a couple of three pointers, going 6-9 from deep.
Blackwell came off the bench and scored a vital corner three off a beautiful dish from Hepburn and also knocked down two free throws, providing once again to be very useful in his debut.
Following that run, Arkansas State just could not recover and the lead continued to grow, with the Badgers going up 98-62 before putting their subs in and calling it game.
The Badgers ended the night with a Kohl Center record 105 points, following a huge three from Isaac Lindsey and contested inside layup from Kamari McGee.
In the win, Wisconsin saw 12 players score, while four hit double-digits: Chucky Hepburn (20 points), A.J. Storr (15 points), Max Klesmit (14 points), and John Blackwell (12 points).
Now, they’ll focus their efforts to the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers, who beat Tennessee Tech 80-42 in their opener, at the Kohl Center on Friday.