For the second consecutive game to open the 2003-04 season, Wisconsin needed a spark off the bench.
Nixon entered with 11 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half and the Badgers trailing 12-10. A minute later, with the Panthers out to a four-point lead, Nixon grabbed an offensive rebound and tipped it in. On Wisconsin's next possession, Nixon drew a foul and made one of two free throws to draw the Badgers within 14-13.
"Just energy; just Ray Nixon—what we liked about him when we had him in camp, what we like about him as a person," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "He brings energy on the floor defensively, on the glass, just he is active and he just needs to continue to get stronger and he'll keep contributing."
"If you come off the bench and contribute… if you can give good minutes, rebound, get loose balls and defend, that's the things that coach looks for," Nixon said.
Nixon played eight minutes in the first half, leading the team with five rebounds through 20 minutes of play, the last one resulting in a transition opportunity that culminated in a Clayton Hanson jump hook to give Wisconsin a 30-22 halftime lead.
"He has been working on that all summer and in practice he kills us with it," Badger guard Freddie Owens said of Hanson's two jump hook baskets Tuesday.
Hanson played 15 minutes off the bench Saturday, contributing nine points and two steals. Hanson, who shot three for six from the floor, was one of only two Badgers who shot 50 percent or better (Freddie Owens was six for seven).
It was the little things, though, where Nixon and Hanson excelled Tuesday, diving for loose balls, winning rebounding battles and drawing fouls.
With seven minutes, 13 seconds left in the first half, Hanson dew a charge on EIU's Derik Hollyfield. Four minutes later, Hanson drew another foul and hit two free throws, pulling Wisconsin to its then-biggest lead of the game, 24-18.
Nixon finished with career highs in rebounds (six) and points (five) in 16 minutes playing time, while Hanson tied a career high with three rebounds.
"I think (Nixon) and Clayton really came in and brought a lot energy to the game tonight," Owens said. "We needed that. We fed off these guys…(Nixon) and (Clayton) were in there diving on the floor for balls, getting offensive rebounds and making great decisions with the ball. We are going to need that all year long from our bench."
Hollyfield "didn't play"
With 11 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second half Tuesday, the Panthers' Hollyfield drew a foul and hit the initial free throw attempt for his first point of the game. Hollyfield missed the backend, but managed to snag an offensive rebound. Wisconsin forward Mike Wilkinson, though, blocked the ensuing shot and just 22 seconds later Hollyfield fouled Badger guard Boo Wade, ending his evening after just 11 minutes of play.
"Hollyfield didn't play. He comes off a 27-point night, plays 11 minutes and fouls out," Panther coach Rick Samuels said.
Hollyfield scored 27 points in Eastern Illinois' opener against Northern Illinois. Tuesday, though, the junior-college transfer took just two shots, missing both, but did add four rebounds and two assists before fouling out.
"That makes a difference for us to not have a kid like that in the game because he is not only a kid that scores but he makes other things happen—he is a pretty good passer, he penetrates and kicks—there is a lot of things he does that we just didn't have on the floor tonight," Samuels said.
Clearing the bench
Last season, Wisconsin rarely used more than seven players and down the stretch relied upon its top six players to log nearly all the team's minutes. In the Badgers first two contests this season, though, the team has gone deep to its bench.
Tuesday, Wisconsin used all 11 players. Nine Badgers entered in the first half when Wisconsin led by no more than eight points and trailed for much of the session and four reserves garnered 29 minutes. All told, Wisconsin's bench contributed 21 points in 69 minutes.
Freshman Kammron Taylor debuted Tuesday, playing seven minutes and scoring two points on one-of-two from the field.
"Again you start five and play the rest when you can," Ryan said. "I like what they added, you can pretty much go right through the lineup there. Defensively Kamm and Ike (Ukawuba) did a good job of chasing their shooters cause Eastern does a great job screening and cutting. They didn't get rubbed off much at all. I liked what they added defensively."
Ukawuba played four minutes, contributing one assist and one steal.
Wisconsin center Dave Mader has started two games, but has only logged 22 minutes. Against the Panthers, Mader barely made it past the opening tip, playing one-minute, 45 seconds to start the game before Zach Morley entered. Mader also started the second half and played one-minute, 48-seconds before Morley stepped on the floor.
Mader rejoined the action late in the second half Tuesday and finished with four points and four rebounds in nine minutes after garnering five points, four rebounds in the season-opener with Penn.