Wisconsin looks to string together solid performances before traveling to New York City

Playing its third game in five days, Wisconsin takes on North Dakota tonight at the Kohl Center. BadgerNation takes a closer look at the matchup.

North Dakota (1-0, 0-0 Big Sky) vs. Wisconsin (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time – Tuesday, November 17, 7 p.m. central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)

Television – ESPN3 (Shawn Kenney & Mac McCausland)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 6-0 (Wisconsin leads 6-0 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 103-85, on November 19, 2013 in Madison

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 8.0 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 15.0 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 6.0 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 20.0 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 13.5 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 6.0 ppg)

24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 6.0 ppg)

30 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 6.0 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Hayes started out like gangbusters in the first half Friday (scoring 17 points) but hasn’t developed a rhythm since. He was held scoreless on five shots from the field in the second half of the disaster loss to Western Illinois and played only five minutes in the first half thanks to two quick fouls. He was efficient Sunday when he was on the floor (14 points on 5 of 6 shooting, four assists and no turnovers), a signal of how important it is that he’s available.


NORTH DAKOTA PROBABLE STARTERS

1 Corey Baldwin (6-4 Junior Guard, 17.0 ppg)

5 Carson Shanks (7-0 Sophomore Center, 10.0 ppg)

15 Cortez Seales (6-4 Freshman Guard, 27.0 ppg)

21 Quinton Hooker (6-0 Junior Guard, 12.0 ppg)

43 Drick Bernstine (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 10.0 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

5 Kenny Wormley (6-4 Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)

15 Nico Clareth (6-5 Freshman Guard, 2.0 ppg)

32 Evan Fisher (6-8 Freshman Forward, 2.0 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Four of UND’s six double-figure scorers in the opener were freshmen, which accounted for 73 of the team’s points. Seales – a true freshman - led the charge with 27 points as he went 11-for-15 from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line in his UND debut

LAST TIME OUT

MADISON – When a horse bucks you, it’s best to get back on and ride again.

It’s an old adage that prove useful to the University of Wisconsin, which only had to wait two days before wiping the salty taste of the Friday night’s clunker out of its mouth with a more vintage performance.

“One of the first thoughts that went through my head after (Friday) was, ‘Thank God we have got another game in two days to prove ourselves,’” said junior Zak Showalter, whose put-back dunk at the end of the first half was one of the highlights in No.17 Wisconsin’s 92-65 victory over Siena Sunday at the Kohl Center, a game part of the 2K Classic.

“Obviously that was pretty embarrassing, but we know what we’ve got and what we’re capable of. I think we responded pretty well.”

Junior point guard Bronson Koenig led the three Wisconsin players in double figures with a career-high 23 points, as the Badgers (1-1) shot 58.5 percent from the floor and found a better rhythm on both ends of the floor that was largely absent during Friday’s 69-67 loss to Western Illinois, the first to open a season since 2001 and first to open a home schedule since 1997.

More importantly, the work the Badgers put in defensively was evident, especially down the stretch in the first half.

After Siena (0-2) made seven of its first 11 shots, creating a here-we-go-again vibe after they took a 16-13 lead in the game’s first 7:40, Wisconsin tightened up defensively and saw the shooting cool to 4 of 17 the remainder of the half.

It carried over into the second half with Wisconsin holding the visitors to 39.3 percent in the second half and for the game.

Wisconsin’s young roster – which added a third freshman to the rotation when Alex Ilikainen made his collegiate debut  – fared better offensively, shooting better in overall percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage, thanks to a pair of “veterans” in Brown and Koenig.

Koenig was active in the paint ant the perimeter, hitting a team-high three 3-pointers, while Brown broke Friday’s career-high with 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

LAST MEETING

MADISON - In a program that has produced standout offensive players like Brian Butch, Michael Finley, Devin Harris, Jordan Taylor, Alando Tucker, Tracy Webster and many others, Frank Kaminsky did something that no other Wisconsin basketball player has ever done – score 43 points in a game.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Kaminsky, whose point production helped the Badgers distance itself from a pesky North Dakota squad to earn a 103-85 victory. “As a basketball player you want every shot to go in. When most of them are going in, it’s going to feel great. I can’t really describe it. It’s an awesome feeling looking back at the game now and looking at the stats".

Kaminsky’s left-handed layup with 1:13 remaining set a new scoring record, surpassing the 42 points Ken Barnes scored against Indiana in March 1965 and that was later equaled by Finley at Eastern Michigan in December 1994. Both of those, however, came in a losing effort.

The 18-point victory for Wisconsin (4-0) was just four shy of the combined total of Wisconsin’s first three wins and put Wisconsin over 100 points for the first time since scoring 105 points against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 28, 1995.

Kaminsky’s stat line is hard to accomplish even when playing on the easy level in a basketball video game. He finished 16-for-19 overall, 6-for-6 from 3-point range and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. He also added three rebounds, one steal and no turnovers.

“He was scoring back to the basket, face ups, 3-point shots, he was really feeling it tonight,” said Sam Dekker. “You just have to keep feeding the hot hand.”

Kaminsky overshadowed a lot of good performances for Wisconsin, including Dekker’s season-high 19 points, four assists and one turnover and Traevon Jackson’s 14 points, eight assists and one turnover.  Of the duo’s 12 combined assists, eight went to Kaminsky, resulting in 21 points and helping Wisconsin shoot 59.3 percent (35-for-59) and 60 percent (12-for-20) from the perimeter.

SERIES NOTES

The Badgers are 14-1 all-time against teams from the Big Sky conference.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are the only two Big Ten schools that UND has played since making the move to Division I prior to the 2008-09 season. UND played Nebraska, a current Big Ten member, during the 2010-11 season as well, but the Cornhuskers were a Big 12 member at the time of that game (77-46 loss; Jan. 3, 2011). UND is 0-4 in those DI tilts against Big Ten members.

WISCONSIN NOTES

UW returns 34.3 percent of its scoring and 31.5 percent of its rebounding from 2014-15, both are the fewest of any team in the Big Ten.

Freshmen Ethan Happ, Alex Illikainen, Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas are combining to average 23.5 points and 15.0 rebounds per game through two games.

In 24 games as the Badgers’ starting point guard, Koenig averaged 11.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He also went 50-for-113 (44.2%) from 3-point range over those 24 games.

Brown has started each of the first two games this season and is 3rd on the Badgers in scoring at 13.5 ppg and leads the team with 6.0 rpg. He tallied a career-high 16 points vs. Siena and is a perfect 10-for-10 from the FT line on the year.

NORTH DAKOTA NOTES

For the second time in three seasons, UND opened its season with a win over Minnesota-Morris. Six players reached double figures in the 99-69 victory over the Cougars. UND has now won six-straight home openers and is 6-4 in season openers under head coach Brian Jones.

The 2015-16 roster has four players on it that have been part of a different Division I men’s basketball program: Drick Bernstine (Denver), Dustin Hobaugh (Houston Baptist), Carson Shanks (Utah State) and Wheeler Baker (Albany). Baker has to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

After becoming eligible at the semester break in 2014-15, Shanks appeared in 19 games and earned 13 starts, which is a figure that led all centers on the squad. Shanks averaged 6.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg and led the team with 27 blocked shots.

UND concluded the 2014-15 season with nine-consecutive losses, which is the longest losing streak during Jones’ nine seasons and most since the 1959- 60 team opened that campaign with 10-consecutive setbacks

PREDICTION

Not only is this year’s Wisconsin team the youngest in Bo Ryan’s tenure, the product of not having a scholarship senior, the Badgers have had at least one senior starter in each of Ryan’s 14 seasons and at least two senior starters in at least 10 seasons.

So it’s no surprise that true freshmen are getting a lot of minutes through the first two games of the 2015-16 season. With Wisconsin using a seven-man rotation through two games, forwards Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas have emerged as regulars. Iverson has received the most minutes (24.5 to 15 per game) because of his ability to do the gritty work.

Both newcomers are averaging six points and five rebounds, but Iverson leads the Badgers with four blocks, three steals and seven offensive rebounds in two games. On Sunday they got another true freshman as a reinforcement.

Alex Illikainen had been mulling a redshirt this season but made his debut with 5:02 remaining in the first half in the win over Siena. Illikainen drew a foul and connected on his free throws on his first position and later hit a jumper on his first possession of the second half.

“Alex has had some spots in practice where defensively he would give up three baskets in a row and then other situations in practice where he would rotate well, block out, make good reads,” Ryan said. “On the offensive end he's had the same thing - like all freshmen - good practices, bad practices and everything in between."

It appears UW will need Illikainen’s production in the front court. UW also could possibly use Brevin Pritzl in the backcourt. Pritzl was cleared a little more than a week ago following surgery on a broken foot he suffered over the summer. And while his conditioning is not up to snuff, the former four-star prospect can shoot.

Pritzl made his debut with Wisconsin leading by 30 points and 5:52 remaining in the game. Pritzl's first possession was not as smooth as Illikainen’s, as he turned the ball over after getting trapped at midcourt. Pritzl did not attempt a field goal during his four minutes of playing time.

“Brevin's been shooting the ball well in practice,” said Ryan, “so I wanted to see how he felt getting out on the court in that situation with the lead that we had.”

It’s no secret that UW needs to build depth this season, which is why this challenging stretch of three games in five days is critical for the program, not just because UW will have two challenging games in New York City over the weekend but for success in conference play. Successes aside, this group of freshmen are starting to look a little more comfortable on the floor.

The Badgers looked like themselves Sunday. I would imagine they’ll look like themselves tonight, too, getting the youth some more experience and hitting the road with a 26-point win.

Worgull's Record: 1-1

Points off Prediction: 46 (23.0 per game)


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