The game wasn't perfect on offense but the Badgers were able to come out strong in the first half and built a double-digit lead to take into halftime.
Four of Wisconsin's five starters were able to score in double figures with Josh Gasser leading the way with 19 points, Sam Dekker had 16 points, Ben Brust had 15 and Traevon Jackson had 13 points. Duje Dukan had 15 points off the bench.
Although it was a concern that Wisconsin may go through shooting droughts at times, Wisconsin was able to attack the rim consistently and create space against St. John's - going 25-for-54 (46.3 percent) from the floor.
Coach Bo Ryan may not be happy with the 10 turnovers Wisconsin had but it could have been worst. At times the Badgers had trouble being strong with the basketball or fumbled the ball but were able to recover. Nigel Hayes, Dekker, Jackson, and Gasser each had two turnovers.
Although Wisconsin had 24 points in the paint, the threat of down low scoring was nonexistent at times. Frank Kaminsky is part of the reason why; he needs to be more aggressive down low. The Badgers were fine without really any low post game because their perimeter shots were falling, but they're going to have to win games in the future where they can get the ball down low for some easy low post baskets.
The Badgers defense was solid in the first half but allowed the Red Storm to get back into the game after the Badgers built a double-digit lead. At the same time, some of the shots St. John's took in the first half were pretty early in the shot clock and Wisconsin was able to get an easy rebound.
For the most part, Wisconsin did a good job of eliminating second-chance opportunities - only allowing the Red Storm and their length to get 16 offensive rebounds. The Red Storm only managed to get 12 second-chance points.
D'Angelo Harrison and Jakarr Sampson, who both averaged double figures in points last year, found success against the Badgers' defense, scoring 27 and 21 points, respectively. The Badgers allowed Harrison and Sampson too easy of chances to get to the rim and get some easy points at times. When Wisconsin kept both players on the perimeter, they struggled to score.
Although the Badgers drew a pair of charges, Wisconsin struggled at times adjusting to the new defensive rules or weren't quick enough to recover on some Harrison drives to the rim. Wisconsin gave Harrison eight free throw opportunities (he made all eight), and the Red Storm went 17-for-23 (74 percent) from the charity stripe on the night.
Wisconsin was able to force the Red Storm into 12 turnovers, which translated into 18 points for the Badgers. Jackson had two steals and the Badgers showed throughout the game active hands and did a good job of pressuring the basketball to try and force St. John's into mistakes.
Wisconsin played well enough to win this game but will need to play more of a complete game on Tuesday night when they play Florida.
Not surprisingly the guards played well but Kaminsky (1-for-4, two points in 23 minutes) is going to have to improve his play mightily if Wisconsin wants any success this coming season.
Dukan was a big contributor off the bench with a career-high 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting, hitting some big shots whenever St. Johns was able to close on Wisconsin's lead. Not only was Dukan able to help in the scoring category, he cleaned up the defensive glass with five rebounds. Dukan always looked comfortable on the offensive end but it was obvious he was comfortable playing defense.
Bronson Koenig and Hayes were the only two freshmen to play. Hayes played eight minutes and had two points but he's going to have to learn to be responsible with two turnovers. Hayes also had four fouls and has to be able to learn how to play defense without using his hands and be able to move his feet properly.
Koenig only played a minute in the first half but had a nice pass to Hayes for an easy lay up. It's still hard to tell what kind of impact Koenig will have on a team full of experienced guards but he could find a place in the rotation if he can consistently distribute the basketball.
With St. John's being able to chip away at the lead after Wisconsin was able to build a lead of 18 points in the first half, it became critical that Wisconsin made its free throws. After struggling at the line a year ago, it looks like the Badgers may have taken a step forward this year going 25-for-30 (83 percent) from the line.
Game MVP: Josh Gasser. It would have been easy to give it to Dukan but it had to be Gasser in his return from his ACL injury and how he played tonight to help UW pull out a victory.
Gasser led the team with 19 points on 4-for-7 shooting and came out on fire and looking like his old self. Gasser went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line and made some critical free throws down the stretch. Gasser also led the team with eight rebounds and one assist.
The rest of the Badgers were playing well off of Gasser and he was able to help the offense flow throughout the game. Fans have to be excited about how Gasser played tonight and you could tell he wasn't bothered by the knee brace he'll be wearing all season.