MILWAUKEE — Earlier this year, the University of UW-Milwaukee spent millions to renovate the old Milwaukee Arena; a project that included the installation of a new scoreboard.
While many have questioned the prudence of UWM’s investment, considering the Arena is considered the preferred site for a new Milwaukee Bucks’ arena, it’s a good thing the school bought a new board as the old one might not have lasted Wednesday night.
No.5 Wisconsin, reverting to a form more becoming of a top-five team, shot the lights out against the Panthers, connecting at a 61 percent clip in a 93-54 victory over the Panthers in front of an announced crowd of 10,120.
“I don’t remember the last time I saw a Wisconsin team score 93 points,” said Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter, who played for and served as an assistant under Badgers coach Bo Ryan. “And I was on the sidelines for some of those games.”
“We didn’t shoot ball well against Marquette but we came in here and shot the lights out,” said senior center Frank Kaminsky, whose game-high 18 points was one of four Badgers in double figures. “It’s just one of those things, when the ball starts going in, everyone sees it go in and it starts spiraling like that.”
The Badgers got off to something of a slow start, missing their first four shots before Kaminsky, who missed his first three, finally put Wisconsin on the board with a layup at the 17:07 mark and the Badgers would make six of their next ten.
“I missed some really easy ones early, ones I shouldn’t have missed,” Kaminsky said. “I was frustrated with myself but the next few were able to go in. I know I shot a lot of them, but it was nice to see them go in.”
The Badgers led, 8-0, after a Kaminsky layup with 15:41 left in the half but Panthers responded with seven in a row to make it a one-point game.
That would be the closest Milwaukee would get the rest of the way.
Sam Dekker answered with a layup and after a Panthers miss, knocked down a 3-pointer as Wisconsin went on a 10-2 run that put them up, 18-9 midway through the half.
“I thought I had a good matchup there to get in the post and [Traevon Jackson] called back-to-back plays to get me the ball,” Dekker said “That’s the sign of a good PG, that he sees that and recognizes that. He put me in a good position to score and it kind of got is going.”Hobbled last week by a tender ankle, Dekker looked healed after scoring 15 of his 17 in the first half and Kaminsky had 12 of his points in the opening half, as the Badgers shot 56.3 percent and connected on 4 of 8 from long-range.
As good as they were in the first, they were even better in the second half, making 21 of 32 shots and four more 3-pointers.
“It was nice to see the ball go through the net,” Ryan said. “We made some shots we weren’t hitting Saturday and they just happened to go into night. We had good ball movement; I thought our guys really shared the ball well.”
Matt Tiby scored 17 to lead Milwaukee (4-6), which shot 35 percent from the field and was dominated in the paint, 46-18.
Ball protection: Earlier in the week, Ryan expressed some displeasure with the Badgers’ turnover numbers, suggesting that their average of 9.2 per game was a bit too high.
That message came through loud and clear Wednesday as Wisconsin turned the ball over just once through the first 30 minutes against Milwaukee.
“I wasn’t really happy with that one,” Ryan said. “That was a shuffle pass by, I won’t say his name but his initials are Bronson Koenig - and we don’t make shuffle passes.”
The Badgers finished with a season-low four turnovers.
“I thought we took good care of the ball,” Ryan said. “We made good decisions, we had some good ball-fakes. I thought our deception was pretty good. ”
Dekker improving: Dekker looked far more aggressive on the floor Wednesday, in large part because of a full return to practice this week.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Dekker said. “Our training staff has done a good job of giving me some rest and working with me to get back. I practiced pretty well the last few days.”
Dekker scored five points on 2 of 5 shooting against Duke and was 1 of 5 for 2 points against the Golden Eagles. Wednesday he hit 7 of 10 from the field, including both of his 3-point attempts, in 20 minutes of action.
Clearing the bench: Leading by as many as 45 in the second half, Ryan was able to rest most of his regulars and give minutes to some of his reserves, including Vitto Brown, who played 19 minutes, and Riley Dearring, who played six and finished with three points.
“You always respect your opponents but on nights like this, when shots are falling down, you get a chance to play everybody,” Ryan said. “That’s exciting because those guys practice hard every day. Those guys are on the team for a reason so it’s good to see them get some time.”