MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers had trouble putting the University of North Dakota away on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center, but the No. 12 Badgers were able to pull away in the second half for a 103-85 win thanks to a record-breaking performance from one of their big men.
And no, it wasn't Sam Dekker.
Instead it was Frank Kaminsky, who scored a school record 43 points on 16-of-18 shooting from the floor- including a perfect 6-of-6 from behind the arc. The 7-foot junior also made 5-of-6 free throws, breaking Michael Finley's previous school record of 42 points in a game in the process.
Head coach Bo Ryan subbed Kaminsky out of the lineup twice when he was just two points shy of the record, but Kaminsky scored the record-breaking basket on a layup with 1:13 left in the game. Ryan said he wasn't aware that Kaminsky was close to the record until his bench players started pleading for him to sub Kaminsky back in, so Ryan said he'd give the junior one more possession to try and make history.
Kaminsky said he didn't know he was close to the record, but he started feeling as though he was in for a special night early on in the game after a few tough shots started to fall.
"I just kept shooting it and it just kept going in," Kaminsky said after the game. "I had no idea I was close to the record. I was kind of curious as to why [Ryan] kept taking me out and putting me back in. I figured it out right after and it was fun."
So even though Kaminsky came in to Tuesday night's game averaging 8.7 points per game, Dekker said he and the rest of the team knew they needed to keep feeding the hot hand on the court.
"In the first half they kind of let him roam the 3-point line, which was stupid, but we drove and kicked and found him," Dekker said. "I think I hit him on three [passes] in the first half. We just kept the hot hand and kept finding him."
"Credit him for all of that- he was scoring back to the basket, 3-points, face ups. He was really feeling it tonight and you've got to keep feeding the hot hand."
The Badgers also got solid offensive performances from Dekker, Ben Brust, and Traevon Jackson. Dekker finished the game with 19 points, while Brust and Jackson scored 10 and 14, respectively. But in the end it was Kaminsky's night, from the time he hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first half until his last shot that gave him the record.
Jackson said he could tell Kaminsky was going to have a special night when the usually quiet Kaminsky asked for the offense to run a certain play for him that would set up one of his better shots, and the junior point guard didn't want to be the one to deny him.
"[Kaminsky] came down in the game and he said 'Run this play for me,' and he never says that," Jackson said. "It was sweet to see that. I was happy to run it for him."
But Kaminsky's huge night overshadowed an almost-as-stellar performance by North Dakota guard Troy Huff, who finished the game with 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting from the floor. North Dakota shot 56.3 percent from the floor as a team, and Ryan said playing a few freshmen like Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig definitely made his team a little more vulnerable on the defensive end.
"Especially with two freshmen out there, there were a couple screening situations that exposed a lack of experience," Ryan said. "They're not quite there yet. We'll have to get better."
But even with a big night from Kaminsky in the books the Badgers have two more games this week, one on Thursday night against Bowling Green and another on Saturday night against Oral Roberts. Dekker said having a full schedule this week should help the team move on from what they called a disappointing defensive performance, but it's unlikely that Kaminsky will forget his game against North Dakota any time soon.
Kaminsky said Tuesday night's game was definitely one of the top five games of his career, but he refrained from saying it was the best one.
"I'm not sure [where it ranks] yet," Kaminsky said. "Hopefully we can make some better memories, but this one will be there. [A better game] is still to come- when we win the Big Ten championship this year."
The Badgers will need to tighten up their defense before that can happen, but in the end setting a school record for points scored probably earned the big man a right to talk a big game for a little bit.
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