Game Day Grades: Montana

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Winning its opening NCAA tournament game for the sixth-consecutive season, No.4 seed Wisconsin made quick work of No.13 Montana, winning 73-49 Thursday, and prepare for No.5 Vanderbilt on Saturday evening. Badger Nation hands out the grades.

Offense: A-

The Badgers shot the ball effectively by either getting to the hoop or finding the open man for the shot. Wisconsin went 23-for-48 (47.9 percent) from the floor but more impressively made 10 of 19 3-point attempts (52.6 percent).

When any team shoots the basketball this well, they're bound to have balance scoring, which is exactly what the Badgers did. Wisconsin had four players score in double figures with Ryan Evans leading the way with 18 points, Jordan Taylor close behind with 17 points, Josh Gasser adding 12 and Rob Wilson chipping in with 10 points off the bench.

Evans did most of his damage in the first half - picking up 14 of his 18 points - and was able to get open off of screens to knock down his shots. It was that kind of efficiency that helped Wisconsin secure the momentum early in the first half and never relent.

Mike Bruesewitz had been struggling mightily to find his shot, but the junior again came alive in the NCAA Tournament with eight points and knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to break a 0-for-20 skid. It looked like Bruesewitz was going to continue with his offensive struggles when he picked up two early fouls and missed an easy lay up in the first half, but Bruesewitz knocked down two three's in the second half, the first of which drew a fist pump that appeared to allow all his frustrations to leave him. Hopefully the performance will give Bruesewitz some confidence in his offensive game for the rest of the season.

Not only was Wisconsin efficient from the field, the Badgers were able to get to the free throw line frequently and convert at a consistent rate - going 17-for-19.

Defense: B

The Badgers struggled to protect the paint in the first half, allowing Montana to get 20 points in the lane. Despite Montana's early success, the Badgers made the right adjustments at halftime and made the Grizzlies figure out a different way to beat them. The results, obviously, didn't work, especially since Montana scored only six paint points in the second half compared to the 10 points inside for UW.

Jared Berggren was the defensive player of the game and was one of the main reasons why Montana struggled to find points inside in the second half. Berggren tallied a career-high seven blocks, the third-highest single-game total in UW history and the most by a Badger since Brad Sellers had seven verse Ball State on Dec. 8, 1982. Berggren did a terrific job of contesting any shots around the basket and his disruption was part of the reason Montana suffered a 9 minutes, 43 seconds field goal drought from 2:47 mark of first half to 13:00 mark of second half.

Leading Montana with 16 points per game entering the tournament, Will Cherry got a firsthand look of how tough a defender Taylor is for Wisconsin. Matched up against him throughout the game, Cherry had just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting. The Badgers, Taylor especially, did a really good job of eliminating him from the game and preventing him from taking over.

Despite containing Cherry, the Badgers allowed Art Steward to do some damage down low. Steward had 18 points in the game on 6-for-10 shooting but 12 of his 18 points came in the first half.

Overall the Grizzlies went 18-for-47 (38.3 percent) from the floor and just 3-for-9 from outside the arc. The Badgers forced Montana in to turning the ball over eight times in the game.

Overall: A-

The Badgers clearly showed they were the better team and didn't let the Grizzlies hang around to gain some confidence. The Badgers were able to eliminate the Grizzlies best player in Cherry and force Montana to try and get points from different sources.

The Badgers were able to find high percentage shots but need to take better care of the basketball. Wisconsin turned the ball over 10 times against the Grizzlies. Despite Evans hot shooting (going 6-for-8 from the floor and perfect from the charity stripe), he had half the Badgers turnovers with five.

Wilson continued with his aggressive approach by getting to the free throw line five times and going perfect from the charity stripe. Wilson was patient and looked for his shot instead of trying to force opportunities, which clearly shows he's playing with a great deal of confidence that we haven't seen since his freshman year.

It was surprising to see Duje Dukan get a minute in the first half, especially since he had played once since Jan. 18 - less than one minutes verse Illinois on March 4. Maybe Ryan was seeing of Wilson's magic shooting has rubbed off on his bench mates?

Game MVP: Jordan Taylor. The senior simply had a great game and one that he needed considering he shot 27.1 percent in three NCAA Tournament games last season. Looking at Taylor's stat line, he was clearly the best player on the floor – finishing with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, eight rebounds, two steals, six assists, and zero turnovers.

Taylor was able to get to the hoop when he wanted to and if the defense was good on Taylor, he was still able to find the open man for the shot. Taylor logged 36 minutes of play in a blow out win. It would have been nice to see coach Bo Ryan pull Taylor out of the game when the Badgers had it under control. Hopefully that doesn't affect his play at all on Saturday.


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