MADISON, Wis. - It took the Wisconsin Badgers a while to get off the ground, but once they hit their stride and a few 3-pointers they dispatched UW-Platteville in a 80-51 exhibition win Wednesday at the Kohl Center.
Senior guard Ben Brust and sophomore forward Sam Dekker led the Badgers with 20 points and 13 points, respectively, with both players combining to make all 12 of their attempts from the free throw line. Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Frank Kaminsky rounded out Wisconsin's starting five, while George Marshall, Nigel Hayes, Duje Dukan and Bronson Koenig also saw at least 10 minutes off the bench.
The Badgers rotated a lot of players in and out of the game early on, and had trouble pulling away from their in-state rival in the first half. Part of that was thanks to poor long-range shooting, while the Pioneers hit 4-of-7 3-pointers in the first half. The Badgers hit just 1-of-11 3-pointers in to start the game, with Wisconsin's starting five missing all eight of their attempts from behind the arc to open the game.
Head coach Bo Ryan said he thought subbing 12 players in and out of the game in the first half prevented them from really getting in to an offensive rhythm early on, even though they hit their stride in the second half.
"We make a move and then I start putting other guys in, and then you lose some continuity. It happens. But in this instance we were able to get it back," Ryan said after the game. "I'm still trying to find out who's ready to grab the minutes. You'll see a lot of this in these exhibition games. In the second half I though we settled in to a pretty good grove and looked better playing off of one another."
The Badgers shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the second half, after shooting just 42.4 percent to start the game. The Badgers also held the Pioneers to just 26.9 percent shooting from the floor in the second half, after shooting 50 percent in the first half. Gasser said he thought his team could have played better on the defensive end, but for his part he felt better in his return to the court after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee nearly one year ago.
"Defensively in the first half we did not play very well," Gasser said after the game. "These games are really going to help us out this way, just having a young group of guys, and myself coming back from injury. We just need to get more reps defensively, feel each other out a little bit."
All five of Wisconsin's incoming freshman saw time in the exhibition, but forward Nigel Hayes stole some of their thunder by playing for 14 minutes and scoring eight points and pulling down six rebounds. Hayes said he was nervous at first in his first real game at the Kohl Center, but eventually he was able to settle down and just play a normal game.
"Being a freshman and being out there for the first time there was a little nervousness in me," Hayes said. "But then I settled down and got more comfortable and realized it's still playing basketball. It just went from 5,000 fans to maybe 14,000 or 15,000."
The Badgers will open their regular season a week from Friday, when they'll travel to Sioux Falls, S.D., for a neutral-site game with the St. John's Red Storm in The Sanford Pentagon. The Badgers will then return home to the Kohl Center for a non-conference game against No. 8 Florida, who defeated the Badgers 74-56 last year in Gainesville.
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