MADISON—In the opening minutes of Wisconsin's first non-conference game against Penn, it appeared as though it was going to be a long night for both teams. Eventually though, it was Wisconsin who found their shot and the defense to stop Penn from catching up in their 77-44 pummeling of the Quakers.
Both teams started the game with a scoring drought. Penn's sophomore forward Steve Danley struck first for the Quakers at the 18 minutes 26 seconds mark but Wisconsin then went on to score the next seven points and took the 7-2 advantage. Penn hit two three pointers to tie the Badgers 8-8 and that would be the last chance they had to take an advantage in the game.
Wisconsin outscored Penn 28-12 after the tie and much of the offense came thanks to junior forward Ray Nixon. He came off the bench for six minutes in the opening half and he tallied his eight points off a shot in the lane and then connected on two three pointers.
"I was just trying to come in and give what I could in the time that I was in," Nixon said. "Fortunately my shot was falling in the first half."
Though Penn ended the half shooting a shaky 26.9 percent from the field, senior guard Tim Begley managed 10 of the team's 20 points.
The second half started out with a similar scoring drought but this time, Wisconsin had trouble taking care of the ball. Senior forward Mike Wilkinson turned the ball over twice and sophomore guard Kammron Taylor also added a turnover within the opening minute and a half. Penn though was unable to take advantage of the turnovers and failed to score until the 14 minutes an 23 seconds mark on a three pointer by Begley.
Wisconsin ended up tallying 16 turnovers on the game compared to Penn's 18. Though that is an unusually high number for the Badgers, their defensive pressure kept the Quakers from gaining control of the game.
"I thought our guys covered well in transition, finding people, trying to take them out of any comfort zones they like to get in," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "Their timing and how they played off if it, if we let them get into that, they can play against anybody. That timing just wasn't there…for us we knew we had to do that…we got them out of some things that I know coach Dunphy's teams always do well."
The Badger offense also came alive again in the later stages of the half to compliment the team's defense. While Nixon was putting up the points in the first half, the Badgers got some help from two of their big men in the second. After only scoring two points in the first half, Wilkinson gave the biggest offensive boost. He went 6 of 9 from the field, including a perfect 3-for-3 from three point range, to score his 19 points. Wilkinson also grabbed 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Redshirt freshman Brian Butch also came alive in the second half. He sat out Wisconsin's final exhibition game against UW-Platteville but was back in action against Penn for his first collegiate regular season game. In 15 minutes he recorded 10 points and four boards.
With the Wisconsin offense finally producing and their defensive pressure not easing up, the Badgers held their opponents to a 31.9 field goal percentage and proved to be too much for the Quakers.
"I think that Wisconsin is a very very solid basketball team, we kind of knew that coming in," Penn head coach Fran Dunphy said. "We knew that they would play very good defense, that they would not hurt themselves. I'm sure Bo (Ryan) is probably not happy with some of the turnovers but again I think they're just a really solid basketball team and I'm sure they will do very well throughout the course of the year because of that fundamentally sound way that they play."
Begley led the way for Penn with 15 points and eight boards while Danley ended the night with 10 points.
During Wisconsin's exhibition season it quickly became evident that this team would have an enormous amount of depth. While true freshman Greg Stiemsma (right foot injury) and sophomore forward Jason Chappell (right ankle injury) were sidelined, the Badgers suited up and played all 11 players to outscore Penn's bench 31-9.
"You have nine, 10, 11 guys who can come in and help score when they get the ball and that's what happened in the first half," Wilkinson said regarding the team's depth. There weren't too many shots for me, or (sophomore forward) Alando (Tucker), or some people but guys came off the bench and found themselves open and knocked down some shots and that's what we need from those guys. In the second half, (Penn) had to start spreading it out and playing everyone individually and stuff opened up for us. You can't contribute that it is just one person; it's everyone and I think that's a big advantage to our depth and how much talent we have to this team."
One other player who watched the game on the sidelines was freshman forward DeAaron Williams—and he will do so all season. Williams sat out the exhibition season to try and decide whether or not he would redshirt his first season at Wisconsin. Ryan said that Williams would make his final decision on Saturday and since he did not suit up against Penn, it is now certain that he will take the year to redshirt.
"He's redshirting and that's OK," Ryan said. "It's his decision and I always admire people for evaluating and discussion and talking to other people and that's OK."
While it is evident that Wisconsin has depth, one thing in question is the experience that lies within the depth of the roster. The team has an almost completely different starting five from last season and has many new faces involved in the rotation. Vast amounts of experience probably won't be instilled before Wisconsin's next match-up against UC-Santa Barbara on Tuesday but Ryan knows that it will come one game at a time.
"(We want to improve on) decision making all the time; getting guys to think the game instinctively, intuitively," Ryan said. "As I've said before…people talk about the depth we have, or the experience we have and really, there's not much experience that was out there on the floor. You can't hide it…there weren't too many guys out there on the floor tonight that were double teamed in college before. They need to experience that. They need to see some rotations in the heat of the game, not in practice. Hopefully they will be better on Tuesday because that's the way we've always approached it; just get better for the next one."
Wisconsin pummels Penn
Badger Nation Top Stories
Notes: Two QBs Providing a Spark at WisconsinIn today's insider notebook, we hear more about the two quarterback system at Wisconsin, the Badgers playing disciplined and more.
Badger NationYesterday at 9:15 PM
Notes: Wheelwright Ready for NebraskaIn today's insider notebook, hear from Rob Wheelwright as he prepares for Nebraska and kicker Rafael Gaglianone plans to honor the late Sam Foltz.
Badger NationYesterday at 1:54 PM
Preview: Huskers on the ReboundA year after losing seven games by 10 points or less, and six by one possession, No.7 Nebraska comes into this weekend's matchup against No.11 Wisconsin confident it can win the…
Badger NationYesterday at 12:13 PM
Game Day Grades - IowaBadgerNation analyzes the game and hands out the grades from Wisconsin's 17-9 win over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.
Badger NationYesterday at 7:04 AM
Inside the Matchup: Nebraska vs WisconsinThe Huskers travel to Madison to face the Badgers
Scout CFBTuesday at 11:00 AM