There wasn’t much doubt that the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team would start the 2017-18 season with a win. But, how it would happen was the big question.
Wisconsin answered that question with a balanced attack, downing South Carolina State 85-50 thanks to four players in double figures.
Star Ethan Happ started off the season with a double-double, putting up 20 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 8 of 11 from the field too. He was joined in double figures by fellow starters Andy Van Vliet (18), Brevin Pritzl (17) and D’Mitrick Trice (13).
Trice added a team-high five assists to just one turnover too.
The visiting Bulldogs were led by guard Donte Wright’s 13 points, but the Badgers held South Carolina State to just 33.9 percent shooting on the night and Wright to 5 of 16 from the field to get to the 13-point mark.
Given the level of competition, the result was expected, but let’s take a look at what else we can take away from the win.
Good Luck Playing Zone Against This Team
One game doesn’t a season make, but as far as starts go, the Badgers got off to one hot start from beyond the arc and that is really good news. We knew sharp-shooters like Andy Van Vliet and Brevin Pritzl could shoot the deep ball, but could they do it consistently?
That happened on Friday night in a big way, as the two went a combined 7 of 11 from beyond the arc. Van Vliet was a cool 4 of 5 on his own and there was little the Bulldogs could do.
Given the Badgers length, South Carolina State went to a zone defense early on hoping to make UW in to a jump-shooting team. It didn’t work obviously, as UW shot 43.5 percent from three-point range.
Ethan Happ also destroyed the zone when the ball got in to him, and a lot of that damage was done because the Bulldogs had to respect the outside shooting of the rest of the team.
If the Badgers can get this kind of outside shooting on a consistent basis, good luck playing zone against this team. It didn’t work out well for the Bulldogs, let’s see if the trend can continue the rest of the season.
Ford Shows Promise
Wisconsin’s rotation seems to be Brad Davison and Kobe King off the bench first, but I was impressed by the front court combo of Happ and redshirt freshman Aleem Ford. That started early, as Happ zipped a pass in to a cutting Ford for a two-handed dunk. Ford finished the day with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in his first game.
With Alex Illikianen and Charles Thomas looking anemic at best, Ford has a major opportunity to put himself in the rotation earlier and more often. He plays well off of Happ, giving the Badgers a big man who can play on the wing and shoot with some comfort. No one else in that front court can say that.
Are we going to see these two working together more in 2017-18? I’d sure like to see it happen.
D’Mitrick Trice Owning the Point Guard Position
While there is plenty of hype surrounding freshman Brad Davison as the future of the point guard position, D’Mitrick Trice made sure to make people take notice of his skill set too.
Not only did he have 13 points, but he had an impressive five assists to one turnover too. Oh, and Trice also shot 5 of 9 from the field and hit 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.
We saw glimpses of him being a good shooter last season, but now that he has to lead the team without Bronson Koenig to lean on, we saw some really good things on Friday night.
If Wisconsin can get Trice to limit the turnovers, play heady basketball and make the occasional three-pointer, it may be awhile before Brad Davison is the starter.
In fact, Friday’s performance showed that Trice may be the on-court leader of this team and that’s some really good news for a young team.