MADISON, Wis. - The No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers (6-0) were able to survive a tough test in their second game of the Cancun Challenge against Oral Roberts (2-3) with a 76-67 win on Saturday night at the Kohl Center. The win pushed the Badgers' record to 6-0, tied for the best start to a season in the Bo Ryan era.
Powered by 21 points and six rebounds from Frank Kaminsky the Badgers held off a second half comeback, led by Shawn Glover, to put away Oral Roberts in what was the final game of a tough three games in five days stretch for the cardinal and white.
"This is a tough week," Traevon Jackson said. "Thank god we got through the week."
Coming out of the gates hot, Wisconsin found itself owners of a 9-0 advantage just three minutes into the game. Oral Roberts struggled to find a rhythm offensively as the Golden Eagles committed seven turnovers in the first fifteen minutes of the game, allowing the Badgers to take a stranglehold of the game and a 16-point lead into the under-six media timeout.
From that point on, the Golden Eagles went on a 9-2 run with zero turnovers to close out the half and found themselves trailing by single-digits at the break.
"They're a good team; give them some credit," Josh Gasser said of why Oral Roberts was able to get back into the game. "Glover hit some tough shots and made some big plays for them and a guy like that is hard to stop when he is feeling it. Unfortunately, he got into a rhythm there and there were a few minutes where I felt like we got stagnant offensively. We were able to come out in a resilient way against a pretty darn good team so we're happy about that."
The second half was more of a back-and-forth battle than was the first 20 minutes of the game as the Wisconsin lead hovered between 15 and nine points for the first ten minutes of the half.
Glover, who finished with a game-high 24 points, scored seven straight points for Oral Roberts in just over 90 seconds to cut the Wisconsin lead to just four with six minutes remaining.
"That is more tough twos than anybody has had against us," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said of Glover's game. "Fading left, we made him change it up a little bit and go right, and then he cooled off a little bit. I thought we could have gotten into him a little bit better physically, like a defensive back in football."
As has been the case in previous games this season, when Wisconsin was faced with full-court pressure from its opponent, they turned the ball over and allowed easy transition points. Up by eight with 1:18 remaining in the game, Glover stole a pass intended for Sam Dekker and passed the ball to a wide open Bobby Word, who finished the night with 14 points, for a corner-three to cut the Wisconsin lead to five.
Fortunately for the Badgers, they were able to hit their free throws down the stretch to hold onto their lead; something last year's team did not do well as they shot just 63.4 percent from the charity stripe, good for last in the Big Ten.
This year's team, however, is proving so far that it is much more capable of closing out games from the line. Wisconsin has hit 101-of-134 free throws this season, good for 75.4 percent. Jackson and Gasser combined to go 6-for-6 from the line in the final minute of the game.
"We're all good shooters and you have to be tough minded at the end there," Gasser said. "It helps having guys who are not only capable of doing it but also confident in their ability to do it."
Jackson said that for him, the idea of a competition with his teammates is what is key to the team's success at the line.
"It's more of a competition with us; it's like 'I got 2-for-2, what'd you get?" Jackson said. "It's healthy competition though because at the end of the day we're getting better."
After having six players score in double figures on Thursday night and four players do the same on Tuesday night, Wisconsin had five players - Kaminsky (21), Gasser (15), Ben Brust (12), Jackson (11), and Dekker (10) - in double figures on Saturday night.
"I told our guys, 'They'll be the best offensive team we'll play all year.'," Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton said. "To be able to have five weapons on the floor at all times that not only can shoot the ball, but drive the ball, they're smart, they play well together, and they're just very, very efficient."
This was the third game of the season in which Kaminsky led the team in scoring, and the 7-foot center is hoping his success can continue.
"I have a lot of confidence," Kaminsky said. "I go into every game trying to start the game off with a bang and try to keep it going throughout the entire game and it's been working for me recently so I'm going to keep doing that."
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