After letting the Panthers toy with them, jumping out to a 5-2 lead, Wisconsin when on a 16-1 run over a 7-minute, 36-second span that paved the way. Unlike Saturday where the Badgers could move quickly down the court against a fast-paced transition offense, Wisconsin went through its slow, methodical attack against a mirror swing offense.
With such being the case, it was like a typical Bo Ryan practice, and the Badgers looked comfortable in the environment, shooting 48 percent from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line to open a 34-15 halftime lead.
Wisconsin got its typical offense from Jon Leuer (20 points, 7 rebounds) and Jordan Taylor (14 points, six assists, one turnover), but got a big boost from Keaton Nankivil, who scored 10 points for his 16th career double-digit scoring game. More on him later.
The Badgers turned sloppy in the second half, turning the ball over 10 times and making only six field goals in the first 10 minutes. Jared Berggren was also victimized when he unintentionally elbowed Ryan Allen in the chin, and drew an intentional foul when Allen flew five feet back in a fall that might be nominated for an acting award. When asked after, Bo Ryan deadpanned that he'd seen people get his harder getting off the subway.
Wisconsin finished with 13 turnovers, it's most since the UNLV game.
"We want to try and limit those, but we made some mistakes," Leuer said. "A lot of travel calls both ways, so obviously the refs were trying to emphasize that. You just have to adjust to that during the game and I think we started to do that as the game progressed."
Can't ask for much more of a better start by Wisconsin than the one the Badgers had, forcing nine turnovers and allowing only one assist through the first 20 minutes. In his sixth season incorporating the swing offense, Rob Jeter had the same principles as Ryan, although he doesn't quite have the same talent level, which was evident when Nankivil started clicking.
After being a non-factor in the last three halves of basketball, including playing only seven minutes against South Dakota Saturday, Nankivil finally started to flex, registering three blocks on back-to-back possessions, and taking senior forward Anthony Hill off his game. Hill entered the game averaging 14.9 points on 54 percent shooting and grabbing 7.6 rebounds. In 17 first-half minutes, Hill was 0-for-6 with zero points and two rebounds. He finished 0-for-8 with three points and five rebounds.
"So much of what Coach Ryan stresses in the post is doing your work early and not letting him catch the ball," Nankivil said. "It was hard to not let him catch it. He definitely did get some catches, but we saw some stuff on film on how he moved once he got the ball. I was trying to hold my ground as much as possible."
It was evident from the start and was confirmed on the stat sheet that Wisconsin's length was a big factor. The Panthers entered the game with a 4.2 rebounding edge over their opponents, but were out rebounded 37-19, managed only 8 points in the paint and one second-chance point.
"What we were trying to do is get back on track shooting the basketball and that's the wrong team to play to do that against," Milwaukee Coach and former UW assistant Rob Jeter said. "It's what they do to all the teams that come in here. There discipline defensively makes it difficult for teams, and it made it difficult for us tonight. We really never got a chance to get our inside game going."
Anytime Wisconsin dominates an in-state opponent for 40 minutes, it's going to be well received, especially after the Panthers and Golden Eagles played two grinder games and the Badgers lost to the Phoenix. One has to be a little leery of the Taylor-Leuer combination being so dominant and other players just poking their head in once in awhile, although Nankivil showed flashes of that tonight.
On the list of concerns for Ryan has to be finding another consistent scoring presence. As soon as a team shuts down one or both players, the Badgers are going to be in trouble. For now, the Badgers look good at home, but need to translate in to road success. They get the perfect chance Saturday.
Game MVP: Keaton Nankivil. He did everything he needed to defensively and he gave the team a lift offensively, equating to an impressive performance.