As the old adage goes — there's no place like home — and the Wisconsin men's basketball team certainly looked comfortable in its season opener in the friendly confines of the Kohl Center.
"I don't really look at the margin," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "What you get out of anything like this is the effort you put into it, so it was 40 minutes of effort. You can get into this game and get a little bit of a lead and turn it into a rat game, but our guys didn't allow that to happen."
The Badgers displayed few ill effects from their championship run in the Paradise Jam last weekend as 11 separate Badgers contributed at least two points to the victory.
But perhaps the most promising sight for UW was their ability to dominate without a game-changing performance from junior wingman Alando Tucker, who finished the game with just five points on 1-of-1 shooting in 24 minutes of action.
Tucker was an integral component in the team's Paradise Jam Championship run, averaging 22.7 points per game, including a career-high 38 against Eastern Kentucky. He did not need to dominate against the Chanticleers, and did not look for his shot.
"There are guys our there who think about awards and how to impress people and things like that, and I don't allow that to happen," Ryan said of Tucker. "He's just going to play and do what's best for the team and I don't even to have to say anything. He's not going to force anything, there was no reason to."
Lacking a player on the roster taller than 6-foot-8, Coastal Carolina struggled on the boards, getting out-rebounded by the bigger Badgers 38-25.
Forward Moses Sanko and guard Pele Paelay led the way for the Chanticleer' offense with 19 and 13 points respectively. But Wisconsin was able to hold CC's talented backcourt duo in check, allowing Paelay and backcourt mate Jack Leasure to combine for just 20 points.
"They've got two of the better guards, if not the best in the league," Ryan said. "Until Paelay hit a couple of those shots at the end, I thought on those two guards we did a good job defensively."
In the first half, Wisconsin's aggressive man-to-man defense held the Chanticleers to a mere 29.2 percent shooting display. Coastal Carolina showed some improvement in the second half, more than doubling their first-half output of 17 points with a 37-point effort. Turnovers, however, continued to hurt Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers turned the ball over 22 times.
Unfortunately for the Chanticleers, they also had no answer on the defensive end as they allowed the Badgers to shoot a sizzling 54.1 percent, including 54.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
"You never want an outcome like that," Coastal Carolina head coach Buzz Peterson said. "To take the loss is one thing but when you're not executing your stuff, the things we work on on the offensive and (the) defensive end. And I give Wisconsin credit for taking us out of it, but still our execution was not what I wanted it to be. I feel we were like a deer in headlights for a little bit. That was disappointing."
Coastal Carolina cut the lead to one 5:05 into the contest, but that was as close as they would get the remainder of the way. UW answered with a 26-5 run to go into halftime up 41-17. The Badgers sealed the game with a 33-5 run early in the second half.
It was a tough Paradise Jam for sophomore guard Michael Flowers. In UW's second contest against Eastern Kentucky, Flowers dished out five assists, but also handed over five turnovers. For the three-game tournament Flowers recorded seven assists to 10 turnovers — not the type of ratio teams look for from a point guard.
But Flowers, who backs up Taylor at the ‘1', bounced back nicely against CC, finishing the game with nine points, five rebounds and a pair of assists. More importantly, he left a goose egg in the turnover column.
"I've got to start somewhere, and it's better to do it now than later," Flowers said of his zero-turnover performance.
But even more impressive was the youngster's defensive prowess. Flowers was the top contributor off the bench, playing 24 minutes, and was a constant presence around the ball, finishing the contest with five steals.
The most impressive display of Flowers' defensive skills came in the first half when he blocked a Leasure jump shot and grabbed the ball to race down the court, ending up sending an alley-oop assist to redshirt freshman DeAaron Williams.
"He just was huge, on some of the screens, on positioning, he fought for the correct position he doesn't give in very easily," Ryan said. "That's something to we're always challenging our guys to keep working through screens and be aware of the surroundings and Mike did that pretty well. He's a great defensive player."