The Badgers rolled Bo Ryan's former employer, Wisconsin-Platteville, 81-50, in the lone exhibition game for Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
However, it wasn't all sunshine and roses for the Badgers as they struggled in some areas before using a late 1st half surge to start pulling away.
Defensively, the Badgers struggled in the 1st half and led just 20-18 before a pair of veteran players in Frank Kaminsky and Ben Brust sparked the Badgers offense and defense with a pair of fast break layups.
“It (the Wisconsin defense in the first half) was alright, they hit tough shots," head coach Bo Ryan said after the game. "There were hands in faces and quick releases so that’s going to happen, especially in Division III where they have so many good perimeter shooters, so it’s a little bit different type of lineup that you face. There are going to be some threes that are made and I told our guys that, and we just played through it. And then hit some of our own.”
Brust paced Wisconsin with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 30 minutes of action.
He was joined in the double-digit scoring category by just one other Badger—sophomore Sam Dekker, who poured in 13 points on just 3-of-7 shooting from the field. However, he went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the win.
It was 37-30 after the first half, but a good defensive effort along with better shooting from the outside led Wisconsin to pull away from the Pioneers.
Wisconsin held Platteville to just 26.9 percent shooting in the 2nd half, after allowing the Pioneers to shoot 50 percent in the 1st half, showing great improvement out of the locker room.
With the news that guards Zak Showalter and Jordan Smith would redshirt this year, that left 15 players on the Badgers roster and all eyes were on the six freshman that made their competitive debuts on Wednesday night.
Nigel Hayes stood out in that group, putting up 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists and just 1 turnover in 14 minutes of action off the bench.
Count Ryan amongst the group of people impressed by Hayes' competitive debut.
“When you look at the stats and say, wow, for that number of minutes to get that many rebounds, I don’t care if you’re playing a team of three seven-footers or a team of six-five to six-eight guys, he positioned himself well," said Ryan. "He’s strong and he finished. A couple times early on he was just a little tight, and that’s what happens sometimes with a guy that’s used to starting in high school and playing right away, and then has to come in off the bench.
"It’s something you have to learn. He showed that he’s here for a reason, and he’s not going away anytime soon.”
His presence on the boards was felt big time on Badger misses, as he grabbed 5 offensive boards. No other Badger grabbed more than 2 offensive rebounds (Zach Bohannon) in the game.
In addition to Hayes, fellow freshman Bronson Koenig saw significant minutes (14), but didn't stuff the stat sheet much, recording just 1 block and missing his only field goal attempt of the game.
Perhaps the best bit of news was that Wisconsin appears to have shaken off the horrible free throw shooting that plagued it from the get-go a year ago.
The Badgers went 17-20 from the free throw line, going a perfect 8-for-8 from the line in the 1st half.
Unfortunately, UW had issues in three-point shooting, going just 7-of-22 from deep. Most of that issue came in the 1st half though, as Wisconsin shot just 1-of-11 in the half, before rebounding to go 6-11 in the 2nd half.
No Badger made more than two three-pointers, with Brust and forward Duje Dukan both make a pair of treys.
Wisconsin will not see the floor in a game until the regular season opener against St. John's in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on November 8th. Tip-off is set for 6pm CT and will be seen on the Big Ten Network.