The Badgers opened their exhibition season with a 84-59 win over UW-La Crosse, using their considerable height advantage to start fast and never look back.
Senior forward Jon Leuer scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half and the Badgers scored nine times in the paint as they ran out to a 44-23 halftime lead against the physically overmatched Eagles.
It was pretty much what UW would want from an exhibition game. La Crosse presented some challenges to the Badgers – mainly senior guard Tony Mane, who made 10 of 20 shots for 24 points – and head coach Bo Ryan got to try out some different personnel combinations. Best of all for UW, the outcome was never really in doubt.
With that in mind, a few thoughts from UW's win over UW-La Crosse:
- It's no secret the Badgers will need a big season out of Leuer. He's a first-team All-Big Ten selection by most and the team's leading returning scorer. He's a senior in a program that is defined by them. Basically, he's The Man for this UW team.
Encouraging for Badgers fans is that he played like it Saturday night. Say what you want about the competition – and it is worth noting that La Crosse didn't run out a player taller than 6-foot-7. But it wasn't that Leuer scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It was the way he did it.
Leuer got his shot whenever he wanted it. He finished strong at the hoop, throwing down four first-half dunks. He played like he knew he's The Man and is comfortable with it.
"We always want to get the ball inside early and get a rhythm going because that's your highest-percentage shot," Leuer said. "I was just trying to be aggressive and take advantage of my opportunities."
La Crosse knew the size was coming, they just couldn't do anything about it.
"You don't truly understand it until you get on the floor and see how athletic and big they are," head coach Ken Koelbl said.
- All four members of UW's freshman class saw action in Saturday's game to varying amounts.
Josh Gasser was the first freshman in the game and was part of the main rotation. Gasser was the fifth player off the UW bench and played 20 minutes. He showed a nice shooting stroke and looked comfortable playing with Taylor in the backcourt. Gasser finished with nine points.
"Doesn't surprise me that he walked on the court, never changed expression, got to the free throw line, made good decisions," Ryan said. "He's just smart, the kind of player you'll enjoy seeing around here for four years."
Duje Dukan was the second freshman in the game and finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes, including a long three as the second half expired.
Ben Brust made two of three shots and finished with four points in seven minutes.
Evan Anderson entered the game late and finished with a block and a rebound in three minutes.
"The good thing about them is they all listen, and I think they've made great strides," Nankivil said.
- Rob Wilson played just five first half minutes and spent most of the game sitting at the end of the bench next to UW's trainers. Ryan said Wilson has been bothered by a hamstring strain.
"We'll have to get him healthy, get him back," Ryan said. "… He really hasn't had a full practice here for a while."