In a game that could not be definitively grouped into chunks of scoring streaks, the Wisconsin men's basketball team wiped the floor with visiting Southern University in a 92-39 win at the Kohl Center to open the 2006 South Padre Island Invitational. It was the second largest margin of victory in school history.
The Badgers shot a season-high 62.3 percent from the field, including a scorching 69 percent in the first half. Their numbers also improved at the free throw line, where UW had struggled in its first two games but finished 21-for-27 at tonight.
In other words, the shots were falling, and Wisconsin never let up on the gas.
"I thought we stayed true to the game," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "When you get a lead like that a lot of times you get bad habits, and you do things that take away what you're working on.
"Sometimes when you hit a streak, the other team's going to hit one too. But Southern's young, and they did not do that. But at least we didn't change the way we play."
Wisconsin took a 50-19 advantage into the break behind a balanced team effort led again by Big Ten preseason player of the year Alando Tucker, who scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting at the free throw line. Tucker played just six minutes in the second half and finished with a game-high 16 points.
After halftime it was more of the same, as the Badgers went to the line quickly and opened the lead to 40 with 15:01 remaining. The margin hit 50 just under six minutes later, when a Brian Butch free throw gave UW a 76-26 advantage over the Jaguars. The lead would eventually climb as high as 57.
"I'm not sure if Bo and his team really got anything out of this tonight," said coach Rob Spivery.
The Jaguars managed just three assists to their 25 turnovers on the evening, which UW turned directly into 37 points. The Badgers also dominated Southern in the paint, outscoring them 44-12 after both Jason Chappell and Brian Butch got off to good starts down low.
"Bigs, if you're playing a smaller quicker team, if you want to stay on the floor you've got to move our feet and just do the things we practice," Ryan said. "They did a good job of helping recover, they did a good job of moving their feet. But that's got to continue and get better."
While a young Southern team never really gave Wisconsin a fight Sunday, the lesson learned was how to stick with the game plan for a full 40 minutes – something the Badgers certainly did. It also allowed for more playing time for players such as Trevon Hughes and Kevin Gullikson, each of whom came off the bench to score eight points and grab four rebounds.
"It was another game – another opportunity for coach to look at film," said starting guard Michael Flowers, who scored 11 points and swiped five steals. "It's nice for everybody to get out there and get experience. It's always nice to show coach what you can do in certain situations."
The 92 points the Badgers combined for tied a regulation-best under the Ryan administration. UW has twice scored more in his tenure, but only in overtime. Ryan said that it was not just about good bounces or the opponents' name, but where the Badgers elected to take their shots.
"A lot of times shooting percentages are what kind of shots you're settling for," Ryan said. "Again, I want to reiterate, I thought we settled for very good shots."
Despite leading by a large margin, UW was rarely careless in its shot selection and attempted just 11 3-pointers, making five of them.
No one will be quick to jump to conclusions based on one performance, however.
"I've never been one to overreact to a game one way or another," Ryan said. "We take the positives and move on and know that Tuesday we've got a much more experienced team [Delaware State] coming in."
"So ask me after Tuesday."
UW hosts Delaware State to continue the South Padre Invitational on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center before heading to Texas for a pair of games this weekend. That kind of schedule cuts back on practice time and puts the Badgers in a situation akin to the one they are likely to face come tournament time.
"I'd rather play games than practice," Tucker laughed. "Our practices are hard. The more we get more experience in playing in game-like situations, it helps us."
Kammron Taylor was quick to agree with his teammate's assessment.
"When you get a chance to get out there and play against different competition instead of your teammates every day, that's always a good thing. Because sometimes you get tired of going up against the same guys every day. I know I do."
Free throw confidence
After the Badgers shot 44 percent from the line in their opener, Ryan insisted that the shots were falling in practice and would come around. The team improved in its second game, but only to 56 percent.
The third time was the charm, however. On an night in which everything was going Wisconsin's way, that confidence seemed to spill over to the charity stripe as well, where Wisconsin connected on 78 percent of its attempts.
"Tonight I think after our first two games I guess everyone got settled down," Tucker said. "It's one of those things that as the season progresses, they're going to fall."
One highlight on the evening came when Tucker ripped down a two-handed slam off a pass floated above the rim by Flowers to make it 69-26.
Another came with under a minute remaining as Tanner Bronson stole the ball and sent it up on the fast break to Mickey Perry, who juked his way in several directions before putting in the layup for the team's final points.
Ryan opened up his press conference with a gag prop to call attention to his head-turning surprise at Perry's moves.
"Did anybody else get hurt on Mickey's move to the basket there?" Ryan quipped while holding a bag of ice against his neck. "I actually hurt myself. Ow, ow, ow. Where did Mickey Perry get that from?"
"I have never seen 18 moves in one play in my life."