After a two-week break, Wisconsin's offense came out strong shooting 45.8 percent from the floor in the first half. The Badgers finished the game 25-for-58 (43.1 percent) from the floor and was able to find good looks through out the game.
Ben Brust started the first half strong (going 2-for4 from distance and scoring eight points) but Sam Dekker led the way scoring 10 of his 16 points in the first half. Brust finished the game with 11 points while Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes each finished with 10 points.
Dekker was able to find his way to the free throw line by going 4-for-5 from the charity stripe in the first half. Despite shooting 60 percent from the free throw line entering the game, Dekker was able to get into rhythm to knock down some free throws.
At times the Badgers relied too much on their perimeter game - going 9-for-27 (33.3 percent) from three – instead of attacking the rim and trying to get points in the paint, especially with the Panthers having an undersized frontcourt.
When the Badgers did go inside, they took advantage by scoring 22 points in the paint. Wisconsin was able to force the Panthers into 19 personal fouls and Wisconsin finished the game 21-for-28 (75 percent) from the free throw line.
Wisconsin was going to have to slow down Montrael Scott, the Panthers leading scorer who came in averaging 14.2 points. After being held without a point in the first half, Scott finished the game with 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting. With Scott being the lone player to reach double figures, the Badgers did a good job of making sure no one on the Panthers' offense got into a rhythm.
In addition to shutting down their best player on offense, the Badgers were able to force the Panthers into 13 turnovers, which translated into 17 UW points. The Badgers made it difficult for the Panthers offense to connect passes and recorded six steals. In addition to forcing Scott into a low shooting percentage, the Badgers also forced him into a team high four turnovers.
Even if Wisconsin didn't force a turnover, they were able to contest shots, including Hayes blocking all three of Wisconsin's shots. In one defensive possession, Hayes had two blocks. On his second block Traevon Jackson was able to corral the ball and advance it to Brust, which led to an easy three by Brust.
Wisconsin was disciplined on the defensive side of the floor by committing only eight personal fouls throughout the game. It would have been easy for Wisconsin to get lazy at times on defense, especially with the Badgers having a comfortable lead against the Panthers, but they managed to stay smart and play tough defense.
Wisconsin needed to get off to a quick start to show that the Panthers had little chance of sticking around in the game. The Badgers were able to jump out to a 23-6 lead and never let their foot off the gas pedal, taking a 19-point lead into halftime.
Wisconsin committed a season low two turnovers, did a great job of making smart crisp passes and didn't try to do too much. They took advantage of what the defense gave them and were smart with the basketball.
One area where the Badgers need to improve when Big Ten play starts is production off the Badger bench. The Badgers received it today with 29 points off the bench, getting 22 of the 29 points from Duje Dukan, Bronson Koenig, and Hayes.
With the Badgers having the height advantage over the Panthers, it was no surprise that Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 42-25. In the first half alone Wisconsin had as many offensive rebounds as the Panthers did in total rebounds (8). Dekker and Kaminsky had 11 and seven rebounds, respectively. Wisconsin had plenty of second-chance opportunities with 16 offensive rebounds and Wisconsin was able to convert them into 19 points.
Hayes was a frequent visitor to the free throw line against Eastern Kentucky and once again found himself at the free throw line often by going 6-9 from the charity stripe. It'll be interesting to see if that will continue come Big Ten play but Hayes is going to have to do a better job of finishing around the rim. Hayes had plenty of chances where he would've been in position for and-one opportunities at the free throw line if he could've converted.
Game MVP: Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes. Dekker and Hayes both played really solid games. Dekker finished the game with his third double-double on the year with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Hayes finished with a real solid all-around game with 10 points off the bench, four rebounds, two assists, three blocks and one steal. Hayes is very active on the offensive side of the floor and he finds ways to get to the free throw line. His confidence should be pretty high with Big Ten play about to start. Dekker continued to show why he was one of the better players in the Big Ten, showing off his athleticism on a nice alley oop, which was set up by Hayes.