Wisconsin was able to turn it around offensively after Friday night’s debacle against Western Illinois, going from 35.5 percent shooting from the field to 58.5 percent (31-53) from the field. It helped that the Badgers’ spacing was much better on the floor offensively compared to Friday night, which led to more open shots and driving lanes that Wisconsin capitalized on.
What makes Wisconsin’s offensive performance even more impressive is that they didn’t have Nigel Hayes’ services for 15 minutes in the first half after he picked up two quick fouls. With Hayes having to sit, Wisconsin scored 35 points with him watching from the bench on 9-of-20 from the field. There had to be some concern when Hayes exited to game on how Wisconsin was going to score after what they exhibited on Friday, but the offense kept taking what was given to them and didn’t force anything.
Bronson Koenig picked up the scoring slack by scoring 13 of his career-high 23 points in the first half. Koenig was one of three scorers to reach double figures, as Vitto Brown finished with a career-high 16 points and Hayes scored 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter each chipped in with eight points on a combined 6-for-10 shooting from the field.
Wisconsin continues to get solid production from its bench through two games with 23 points. Once again freshmen Charlie Thomas (seven points) and Khalil Iverson (six) did some nice things and continue to demonstrate doing the little things that head coach Bo Ryan will appreciate. The two combined to collect eight rebounds, each had a block and Iverson finished with two assists. Alex Illikainen also made his collegiate debut, scoring six points on 2-for-3 shooting in seven minutes.
Although Wisconsin saw its shooting percentage rise, the Badgers’ 10 turnovers was an increase of six from the opener. What was also surprising that Koenig had a team-high three turnovers, all coming in the first half. Despite the high turnover rate, the Badgers made sure they limited Siena’s ability to capitalizing on the errors, as the Saints could only convert the miscues into 12 points.
Wisconsin’s defense improved from the opener but there is still work to be done. Some of the things that plagued Wisconsin’s defense in the first game popped up once again, most notably the times they allowed Siena to be able to drive to the basket without much contest. Siena finished the game with 34 points in the paint, and UW didn’t make it tough enough on Nico Clareth (21 points) and Marquis Wright (17, 8-for-17). Lavon Long was the only other player for Siena to score in double figures with 14. Overall Siena shot 22-for-56 (39.3 percent) from the field.
The communication was so poor at times for Wisconsin that it led to many open shots from the perimeter, but the Saints managed only 18.8 percent from three, a stark contrast from WIU hitting its open shots two days prior.
Although doing a better job of contesting shots, it led to more fouls with 23 in the game, as Happ and Showalter each committed four. Despite sending Siena to the line 25 times, the Saints could only knock down 18 of their free throws. During one particular stretch of the game in the second half Wisconsin held the Saints for six minutes, nine seconds without a field goal but committed six fouls in that span that resulted in Siena going 10-for-12 from the free throw line.
But when Wisconsin wasn’t fouling, they were able to play aggressive defense that created mistakes with the ball. UW forced 10 turnovers, two off steals and turned those into 14 points. Creating the extra possessions helped the Badgers get into a rhythm offensively and keep the pressure on the Saints.
Wisconsin never took its foot off the gas pedal and made sure the dominance continued in the second half, pushing a 15-point lead even higher by scoring the first 10 points of the second half and led by as many as 33 after halftime.
One of the reasons why Wisconsin built its lead was finding ways of getting to the free throw line. Part of that was due to Siena committing silly fouls and other times when Wisconsin was aggressive around the rim. Overall Wisconsin shot 25-for-30 from the free throw line with Brown (6-for-6) and Koenig (4-for-4) staying perfect.
Brown, who played strong the last five minutes against Western Illinois, picked up where he left off with another scoring night in double figures. Brown at times rushed too quickly on offense, leading to a pair of turnovers, but was aggressive from the start, created separation for himself and knocked down a couple of mid-range jump shots. Brown’s play in the first half made up for Hayes being on the bench with foul trouble.
Outside of finding ways to score, Brown led Wisconsin with seven rebounds, helping UW win the rebounding battle 37-26 and managed to grab 10 offensive rebounds, a number of which were tipped out to the perimeter to reset the offense. Wisconsin for the most part took advantage of the second opportunities by registering 17 points.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. The junior played another good game and was a main reasons why Wisconsin ran away with the game. Koenig posted a new career high with 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field in 34 minutes of work. Outside of finding ways to set up his teammates (four assists to three turnovers), he managed to finish the game tied for second on the team with five rebounds.