MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Badgers got a 79-47 victory over Central Arkansas the best way they knew how: at their own pace.
From early in the contest, it was clear the game would go exactly as slow or fast as the Badgers wanted. No. 9 Wisconsin remained patient and steady when the Bears showed a full-court press and smothered their quick shooters on defense.
Seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig led the Badgers (1-0) to a much-preferred start to last year’s opening-night loss.
WHY: Patience. True to Wisconsin’s typical offensive style, the Badgers were willing to hang onto the ball as long as it took for the best look. Occasionally, that was an open 3 just a few seconds into the shot clock. But more often than not, everyone touched the ball and it came in and out of the paint before the first shot went up.
WHAT IT MEANS: Physically, Wisconsin looked as good as we anticipated. But perhaps more importantly, it is mentally tough, too. It would be easy for the Badgers to be complacent in pre-conference matchups — as they did when they dropped last season’s opener — especially when preseason expectations have been that they would walk on water. But Wisconsin played up to its level, not down to the Bears’.
WHO STARRED: Ethan Happ. Anyone else forget this kid is only a sophomore? His footwork under the basket looks more like that of a seasoned vet. He finished with eight points, all of which were around the hoop.
True freshman D’Mitrik Trice was also impressive to watch. He too “plays well beyond his freshman years,” according to coach Greg Gard who spoke highly of Trice earlier this week. Trice commanded the offense with confidence when he was running point, and added a pair of 3s in the first half, showing off some serious range and nice form.
.@DMitrikTrice22 is niiiiiiiice
Freshman buries a pair of 3s, including this one from distance. pic.twitter.com/73lRVJVMKz
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 12, 2016
WHO STUMBLED: There wasn’t any particular Badger who fell surprisingly short of expectations. However, as a team, there were a few missed assignments on defense, something Wisconsin normally hangs its hat on. Several of the Bears’ eight points in the paint in the first half happened because of miscommunication on help-side defense.
WHO WAS THERE: Friday night, it was more obvious who wasn’t in attendance: half the fans. Through most of the first half, anyway. The University of Wisconsin incorporated metal detectors at each Kohl Center entrance, which caused major foot traffic. There were some major snags in vehicular traffic as well, likely because of Homecoming weekend festivities. A normally packed Kohl Center still had empty upper-deck sections at halftime.
WHO IS NEXT: Wisconsin travels to Omaha, Neb., Nov. 15 to take on Creighton. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on FS1. You can also listen on Badger Sports Network, 1070 AM.
BOX SCORE: View full stats here.