Bo Ryan was using another three-guard lineup against Green Bay Saturday evening and it resulted in 15 of the Badgers' 34 first half points. Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser combined to shoot 4-for-16 in the game. Gasser helped at the free-throw line, shooting 6-for-6, but Jackson never really got going.
UW's offense used up a lot of the shot clock, as the Ryan offense normally does, but at times looked hurried doing so. The Badgers went 4-for-14 on three-point field goals) and finished shooting 44.1 percent (26-for-59).
Sam Dekker used his size advantage over Keifer Sykes to get easy baskets in the paint and on the break. Dekker finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, but disappeared in the second half.
Nigel Hayes came in early and immediately showed his post presence and finished with six points. Hayes made some good post moves in the first half, but also a few turnovers when he couldn't make a quick, one dribble move. Hayes didn't play much in the second half when Ryan chose to go with his experienced players down the stretch.
Ben Brust filled up the offensive stat sheet on Saturday night, finishing with eight points, two assists and three rebounds. All eight Badgers to play got into the scoring column.
Wisconsin led 34-29 at halftime, closing on an 11-4 run over the last 7:27. Despite some misses late that allowed Green Bay to stay in the game, the Badgers did shoot 70.6 percent from the free throw line.
The Badgers finally strung together multiple productive possessions and came back to take the lead, 60-54 on the strength of a 10-0 run. The offense played well in spurts, but wasn't as consistent as it will need to be when Big Ten play rolls around. That will come with time.
Green Bay took advantage of its size advantage, blocking nine shots. When they didn't get a clean block, they altered Wisconsin's shots and made easy baskets difficult.
Sykes, UW-Green Bay's 5-11 guard, was a major problem for the Badgers from the opening tip. Sykes scored the first eight points for the Phoenix. He cooled off quickly, hitting just two of his final eight and finished with 16 points in the first half, but picked up right where he left off early in the first half, sparking a 10-1 run to put the Phoenix ahead.
Sykes, who finished with 32 points, carried the Phoenix the whole game, but couldn't hit a runner to give his team the lead or the 3-pointer to force overtime in the final seconds.
It seemed odd, and it will all season, but the Badgers did not have a size advantage with Sam Dekker (6-7) and Kaminsky (7-1) being UW's tallest starters. Wisconsin gave up too many points in the paint early on, allowing 11 offensive rebounds that turned into 10-0 second-chance point advantage for green Bay.
This year will be a challenge for the Badgers when they face teams that are bigger in the post. Kaminsky and Hayes will have to play stronger in the post, rather than just on the perimeter. Layups and drives to the rim were a little too easy to come by for the Phoenix early, but the Badgers started to rotate better and alter the Phoenix's shots. GB was pretty effective in transition.
Green Bay wanted to get out and running and they did so frequently in the first half. When Green Bay got out and ran on the fast break, Sykes was strong going to the rim. Alec Brown (two points and one rebound) being in foul trouble the whole game was good news for Wisconsin's defense, but the Phoenix outrebounded the Badgers (40-35) despite not having their 7-1 big man.
Outside of Sykes, the Badgers defense did an OK job, especially with Kaminsky came up with a big block on Sykes that essentially ended the game.
After already beating St. Johns and No. 11 Florida, this game seemed to favor No. 20 Wisconsin. However going against a team like Green Bay, who beat the Badgers the last time they traveled to the Resch Center in 2009, this was a game that was going to test UW.
The Phoenix were picked to win the Horizon League and showed why with their size, speed and athleticism, as Sykes exposed UW's defensive weaknesses.
On the offensive end, Wisconsin looked out of its element at times. While they were using a lot of the shot clock and getting good looks at the basket, there were a few offensive trips that they squandered with poor shot selection.
With Brown fouling out and doing nothing most of the game, Sykes had to singlehandedly win the game for the Phoenix. However, despite their struggles, the Badgers closed out the game out to hang on.
Jackson didn't put the game away on the free throw line (2-for-5) when he could. He hit 1-for-2 and had to be bailed out by Kaminsky's defensive effort to preserve the win.
MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky was quiet in the first half, but came through with crucial baskets during crunch time in the second half. Kaminsky finished with 16 points (14 in the second half) on 6-for-12 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.
Although he did look a little tentative in the post early, he took advantage of Brown's absence. He will have to play as aggressive as he did in the second half the whole game for the Badgers to play well.