It was not always pretty, but Wisconsin started its season with a win.
The Badgers struggled to make shots, particularly from behind the arc, but benefited from a strong showing on the glass and some key performances from uncommon sources in a 64-53 victory at Penn Friday evening.
Junior-college transfer Zach Morley provided a spark early in the game. With Devin Harris and the rest of the Badgers' starters struggling to find their shot, Morley came off the bench and scored eight of his 10 first half points in a little more than six minutes, all coming on second-chance opportunities. Penn led by as many as seven points early in the contest, but Morley's second rebound tip-in drew Wisconsin within 15-14 with just under ten minutes to play in the first half. The Badgers scored 14 first half points following offensive rebounds.
Despite shooting 4-for-14 from the field, Harris scored 16 points to lead Wisconsin. It was a shot he did not intend to make, however, that gave the Badgers their first lead of the game. With eight minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half, Harris tried to lob a pass inside to Morley, but ended up making a three-point shot to make it 17-14. The bucket was the only triple Wisconsin managed in 13 attempts Friday evening. The Quakers never regained the lead, but they did keep the game close down the stretch.
Two Boo Wade free throws put the Badgers up 40-34 with 12 minutes, 57 seconds left in the second half, but a pair of three-pointers from Charlie Copp and Jeff Schiffner tied the game just more than a minute later. Schiffner, who led all scorers with 20 points, then followed a Devin Harris bucket with a jumper to tie the game at 42-42 with eight and a half minutes remaining.
With about three minutes left to play, however, Harris converted a three-point play to give the Badgers a 53-48 lead. A pair of Freddie Owens layups then made it 57-48. Wisconsin struggled from the line down the stretch, making seven of 14 free throws in the final minute and five seconds, but was able to hold off the Quakers.
Wisconsin received a boost early in the second half from starting center Dave Mader. Typically not an offensive weapon, the Quakers sagged off Mader, allowing him to shoot. Mader missed two jumpers to start the game, but scored the Badgers' first five points to open the second half, his jumper with about 15 minutes remaining giving Wisconsin a 38-32 lead.
Score by half
Wisconsin - (Field goals-Free Throws-Points) - Devin Harris (4-7-16), Freddie Owens (5-2-12), Zach Morley (5-2-12), Mike Wilkinson (3-3-9), Boo Wade (2-2-6), Dave Mader (2-1-5), Andreas Helmigk (1-0-2), Ray Nixon (1-0-2). Team Totals: 23-17-64.
Penn - (Field goals-Free Throws-Points) - Jeff Schiffner (7-3-20), Jan Fikiel (5-5-10), Tim Begley (3-2-8), Adam Chubb (3-0-6), Charlie Copp (2-1-5), Eric Osmundson (1-0-2), Ibrahim Jaaber (1-0-2). Team Totals: 22-6-53.
Three point goals: Wisconsin 1 (Harris), Penn 6 (Schiffner 3, Begley 2, Copp).