After consistently taking poor shots and doing little to get the ball in the paint against Creighton, Wisconsin clearly wanted to avoid a repeat of that offensive performance. Against Chicago State, the Badgers put more of an emphasis of getting the ball in the paint and finished the game with 34 points down low.
Wisconsin didn’t shoot lights out on offense but they did play more efficiently, even if the shots weren’t falling at times. The Badgers finished shooting 26-for-58 (44.8 percent) from the field with three players reaching double figures. Vitto Brown led the way with a season high 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, Khalil Iverson was second with a career high 11 points and Bronson Koenig finished with 10 points - his third straight game in double figures.
It was a team effort offensively considering the scoring for Wisconsin was balanced. The bench only had nine points at Creighton but scored 36 of Wisconsin’s 69 points Thursday. The bench needed to step up in the first half with the starters struggling to generate points. In the first 20 minutes the starters went 6-for-19 with 14 points while the bench went 6-for-9 and scored 18.
Wisconsin lowered the amount of turnovers from the Creighton game from 16 to 13 but it was still far from clean in terms of taking care of the ball. The way the game started for Wisconsin was similar to Tuesday, as the Badgers made miscues on their first three offensive possessions, resulting in Chicago State jumping out to a quick 8-0 lead. Four different players for Wisconsin had two turnovers and the starters for Wisconsin were responsible for seven of the 13 turnovers, which Chicago State converted into 15 points.
Wisconsin establishing the post allowed the Badgers to not be so reliant on the three, a good thing considering the Badgers went 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) from beyond the perimeter, including 1-for-9 in the second half.
Wisconsin’s defense allowed the Cougars to jump out to an early eight point lead but were soon able to clamp down and string together the defensive stops needed to take control of the game. Wisconsin held the Cougars without a field goal for 9 minutes, 17 seconds, allowing the offense to go on a 19-0 run.
The defensive pressure Wisconsin was able to supply held Chicago State to only eight made field goals in the first half and 35.3 percent (18-for-51) from the field in the game. Fred Sims Jr. led the way with 26 points but needed 22 attempts. Glen Burns was second with 12 points and no other Cougars player scored more than four.
Wisconsin did a good job of limiting the Cougars to one shot, as Chicago State managed only three offensive rebounds and no second-chance points. It helped that Wisconsin got Trayvon Palmer, who tied for the team lead in offensive rebounds last year, into foul trouble. Palmer fouled out of the game in only 12 minutes and was essentially a non-factor when he was out on the floor, scoring three points and having one rebound.
Not surprising, the Cougars struggled to generate paint touches and finished the game with only 10 points around the basket. Wisconsin’s defense forced the Cougars to settle for shots from the perimeter, as 22 of their 51 field goal attempts were from three. Chicago State finished 8-for-22 (36.4 percent) from the perimeter.
Wisconsin shook off a poor start to gain control of the game and never allowed the Cougars to dictate tempo. In particular, head coach Greg Gard has to be pleased with how his bench produce in all areas in addition to scoring.
D'Mitrik Trice continues to play well for Wisconsin, as he’s quickly earning the trust of Gard. Trice led the bench with 23 minutes, and while he only scored three points (1-for-2 from the field), he did a tremendous job of locating his open teammate to finish with a team-high seven assists and zero turnovers. When Wisconsin was making its 19-0 run in the first half, Trice registered four assists, including two on consecutive possessions to Wisconsin on top for good.
Outside of Iverson’s 11, Alex Illikainen (eight), Charles Thomas (seven), Andy Van Vliet (four) and Jordan Hill (three) each chipped in with points. Thomas was active on the glass, too, as he led the bench and tied with Ethan Happ for the team lead with seven rebounds. In total the bench was responsible for 23 of Wisconsin’s 46 rebounds. Outrebounding Chicago State by 20, Wisconsin registered 16 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points.
Wisconsin forced the Cougars into 13 turnovers and, unlike in past games, generated 13 points in transition and 12 points off turnovers. Wisconsin was able to register five steals on the night with Iverson leading the way with two, Zak Showalter, Happ, and Koenig each had one steal. Overall Wisconsin was able to convert the Cougars miscues into 12 points.
After scoring in double figures in two straight games, Hayes only registered three points on 1-for-8 shooting from the field, three rebounds, one assist and two turnovers. Showalter had just as rough of a game, going 0-for-5 from the floor and 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
Game MVP: Khalil Iverson. It was a team effort by but Iverson simply was able to do a little bit of everything for the Badgers. His 11 points mostly came on dunks but he was effective finishing in transition after Trice got him the ball around the basket. Iverson was also able to bring the defensive effort, registering two of the team’s five steals and both of the team’s blocks. He consistently attacked the glass - coming up with five rebounds (three offensive and two defensive) - and opened up opportunities for his teammates.