Name of the game for the Wisconsin offense was to attack UAB around the rim early and often. Four of the first five possessions resulted in Wisconsin getting easy points in the paint or getting to the free throw line. The aggression didn’t stop as they continued to hit the paint hard - scoring 38 points down low and finishing shooting 51.9 percent (27-for-52). It marked UW’s fourth straight game of eclipsing the 50 percent mark from the field.
UAB tried to take the post away from Wisconsin after the first media time out in the first half by going to a zone defense. UW quickly busted that with Josh Gasser hitting a pair of 3-pointers, forcing UAB to switch back and forth between zone and man-to-man defense. It didn’t matter in the end with how well UW was playing within its scheme.
Frank Kaminsky led the way with 16 points and Gasser was second amongst the starters with 10 points, his first game registering double digits in scoring, Duje Dukan led the way off the bench with 11 points.
With a 20-point lead going into halftime, the Badgers did get a little careless at times with the basketball, committing six of their 10 turnovers in the second half. Kaminsky had a team-high four turnovers and Dukan with three. Even though the Badgers were careless with the ball at times, UAB was only able to convert it into six points.
With Wisconsin shooting such a good percentage from the field there wasn’t much of a chance for the Badgers to collect on their missed opportunities, as they were only able to grab nine offensive rebounds. It was clear that the length Wisconsin possessed was too much for the young UAB team. When Wisconsin did get a chance at a second opportunity, they were able to convert chances into 12 points.
Although Tyler Madison led UAB in scoring with 12.5 points a game off the bench, it was junior Robert Brown who came out in an offensive rhythm. He was able to score the first 11 points for the Blazers in the first half. When Wisconsin forced him to take shots from the perimeter, he struggled going 2-for-6 from 3-point range.
Like it has in past games, the size of Wisconsin on defense caused disruption that the Blazers really couldn’t solve. Wisconsin was able to take away passing lanes and block shots (five), which caused the Blazers to shoot 18-for-51 (35.3 percent) from the field.
Brown cooled off after his strong start and with other players struggling to score in the first half, UAB went on a six minute, 51 second scoring drought that resulted in eight empty possessions and an 11-0 UW run to build a 22-8 lead. Brown started 4-for-5, but finished the rest of the game 3-for-10. Finishing with 16 points, he was the only UAB player in double figures.
Besides the length being used to help contest shots, Wisconsin was also able to cause turnovers and forced a season-high 19 as a team, eight of which off of steals. With so many opportunities to create points, the Badgers scored 28 points. Nigel Hayes in particular was able to take advantage and he was able to simply cut off passing lanes or used his length to steal the basketball away ending up the game with three.
You know Wisconsin’s defense was good when only four players for UAB scored in the first half. Brown and Nick Norton were the only players for UAB to score from the field and C.J. Washington and Tosin Mehinti scored the other three points from the free throw line. It looked like Brown was going to be the only player who was going to score from the field in the first half before Norton hit a half-court shot at the buzzer.
It also didn’t help UAB chances against an experienced team when they shot 6-for-25 from the field in the first half, allowing Wisconsin to build a big enough lead going into halftime that prevented the Blazers from making any serious push back into the game.
Wisconsin’s ability to dictate pace and build a lead allowed Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to spread out the minutes, making sure none of his starters or key bench players logged heavy minutes. Hayes, Kaminsky and Dukan were the only players to register 27 minutes or more against UAB.
Going forward, Wisconsin will need to get better production from three, as the Badgers finished the game 5-for-18 (27.8 percent). Over the next two games Wisconsin will have to be able to shoot a better percentage to help take some pressure off of Hayes and Kaminsky.
With the starters minutes being limited, Wisconsin received good production from its bench for a second consecutive game. The bench contributed 28 points with Dukan leading the way with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown scored seven and five points, respectively.
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Clearly the best player on the floor, Kaminsky altered the game with his size and agility, able to set tempo and shoot 7-for-12 from the field. In addition to his team-high 16 points, Kaminsky also led UW with eight rebounds. Part of the reason the Blazers shot such a poor percentage from the field in the first half was because of Kaminsky ability to block, alter or challenge shots, consistently forcing the offensive player to change his shot in the air. It was expected that Kaminsky was going to find success against the Blazers with the way he was playing through the beginning of the season, but the senior will likely get his first true test of the season against Georgetown’s bigger interior players.