After hitting his third-straight three-pointer to open the contest, Prairie View A&M Coach Byron Rimm called timeout to explain to his players that it takes more than getting a hand in Jon Leuer's face to stop him. Yeah, good luck with that.
Leuer was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half and paced the Badgers with 24 points, showing accuracy from the outside and a nice arrange of moves in the paint.
The Badgers also got double-figure scoring from junior guard Jordan Taylor (20 points), sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz (11 points) and an impressive debut from true freshman Josh Gasser, who finished with 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Once an underrated prospect out of Port Washington High, Gasser was the first freshman off the bench and handled the point guard with relative confidence and was a nice compliment to Taylor. His aggressive in the paint reminded some of us of Jason Bohannon last year, especially when he gave his team an extra possession. He grabbed seven rebounds in the first 16 minutes and finished with six offensive rebounds.
There were plenty of first-game jitters with sloppy passing and turnovers that were a result of miscommunication, which led to the glaring result of eight turnovers and 36.8 percent shooting in the first half. Wisconsin made the adjustments after halftime, improving its shooting percentage to 50 percent for the game, cut its turnovers to four and finished with 1.5 points per possession.
Anytime a Wisconsin basketball team can approach 100 points, it's an impressive achievement (hasn't been eclipsed since 1995). When the Badgers score the most points in an opener in 17 years, that's just down-right impressive, and a great building block to the foundation.
The Badgers chase defense and their transition defense wasn't spectacular. A few times Wisconsin was caught out of possession and allowed the Panthers to attempt and make a wide-open three pointer. Just like the offense, the defense improved in the second half, holding the Panthers to only nine made field goals.
UW was active defensively, forcing 15 turnovers, blocking five shots and having nine steals, three of which came off the hands of senior Keaton Nankivil. Wisconsin also showed a good deal of speed and forced Prairie View A&M to take some tough angles, which was evident by the two illegal screens the Panthers were whistled for. The Panthers were held to .833 points per possession and didn't score over the final 3:46. You could tell it was a dose of bewilderment, as the Panthers waved the white flag by simply dribble out the final 25 seconds.
Holding the Panthers to only four second chance points was good, but 14 fast-break points was a little much and will improve over time, as will the footwork and the team taking more charges in the paint.
After the faster, smaller, quicker, inexperienced Marquette Golden Eagles out rebounded the Panthers 51-19, it was not a surprised to see the Badgers dominate the boards. After retuning 74.7 percent of its rebounding from last season, UW turned its 51-16 rebounding advantage into 36 points in the paint and 15 second-chance points on the offensive end and held PVAMU to only 16 points in the paint.
As stated early, there were plenty of good teaching points Wisconsin can use from the opener and will be interesting to see how the players absorb them with game number two against North Dakota. With Ryan going 10 deep until late in the second half and giving guys rest, UW shouldn't have a problem in game number two.
There are plenty of quality candidates for this award. Leuer 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting, Bruesewitz being more assertive and proficient with 11 points, 6 rebounds or Taylor chipping in for 20 points and six assists. But when a true freshman drops 21 points in 26 minutes, it's hard to not tip your cap to Gasser. Ryan was looking for threats off the attack to score, to crash the boards hard and to make the other four players on the floor better. That was Gasser tonight.