Knowing full well that No.7 Wisconsin (4-0) had a talented starting lineup and a deep bench, Delaware State (1-4) and head coach Greg Jackson were in no rush to attack the Badgers offensively. Instead, the Hornets would frequently build their nest at half court and watch the shot clock dwindle down to the high teens before starting their offensive progressions.
"Our strategy was to shorten the length of the game to give ourselves a chance," Jackson said. "There was no way we could play this team with so many possessions each time down the floor. We had to limit our possessions to give ourselves a chance."
The plan worked throughout the first half, as the Hornets waited patiently for a high percentage shot. The result, Delaware State shot 64.7 percent from the floor and held a lead on Wisconsin as late as five minutes left in the first half.
"By not allowing them to get opportunities on the offensive end, we had a chance," Jackson said. "That's all you can ask for when you play in this game is the opportunity to have a chance."
Although Delaware State continued their patient approach in the second half, it was a testament to Wisconsin and head coach Bo Ryan in how the Badgers were able to adjust to the Hornets pace. Thanks largely in part to Alando Tucker's 18 second half points, Wisconsin was able to pull away from the scrappy Hornets by not falling into an offensive trap and staying true to their game plan.
"[Against a defense like that], you have to pick your points," Tucker said. "I think the problem with most teams is they fall into the trap and try to rush their shots on the offensive end because they have been playing defense for 35 seconds. I think we did a good job of keeping our composure."
Big man in a little lineup
Much like some of Wisconsin's previous opponents, Delaware State was comprised mostly of smaller guards, with their biggest player being only 6-foot-9. While Bo Ryan kept Jason Chappell and Greg Stiemsma on the bench for most of the game (Chappell played nine minutes and Stiemsma remained seated for the entire game), Ryan couldn't stop the hot hand of Brian Butch.
Butch scored 10 of UW's 16 points in an eight minute stretch by being aggressive in the paint against Delaware State's zone. Butch finished the night with a double-double, notching 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. According to Ryan, not only was Butch's production great, but his season high 27 minutes on the court showed how his stamina has improved since last season.
"His stamina was great," Ryan said. "I mentioned that before on the hill, what I liked about how he looked this year. He seemed to be the guy who they had a hard time keeping from catching [the ball] and making something happen on the offensive end. So he gets 27 minutes out there and that's extended defensive. He played a whale of a game."
The Long and Winding Road
In today's college basketball landscape, a three game road trip is viewed as a long journey, unless you are Delaware State. After opening the season on November 11th with a 38-point win over St. Paul's College, Delaware State will not play another home game in Memorial Hall until January 13th. That's right, Delaware State plays 14 straight road games in two months and three days and they aren't against pushovers either.
Already having traveled to Pittsburgh and North Carolina State, the Hornets will also venture to Purdue, Marquette and Michigan in a week span among others. Jackson hopes that the team's road games will help prepare his team for the NCAA tournament, as the Hornets are the big favorites to win the MEAC's automatic bid.
‘We're talking abut taking our program to the national level," Jackson said. "In order to get to a national level, you have to come out and play teams of this magnitude to get the type of exposure that we need. If we win our conference, we're going to face some of these teams in the NCAA. In order to have this type of experience, you have to come out and play there teams to show we're not afraid of anybody."
Offensive Most Valuable Player – Like Coach Ryan said, Brian Butch played a whale of a game. However, Alando Tucker took the game over in the second half, scoring a game-high 25 points, 18 of which came in the second half, on 10-of-16 shooting in 32 minutes on the court.
"[Tucker] made some big shots and that really got them going," Jackson said. "If you take his production away, it's a different ball game."
Defensive Most Valuable Player – If he doesn't get the offensive kudos, then Brian Butch has to get the defensive ones. Butch hauled in six defensive rebounds and blocked a shot in Wisconsin's win. What the stats don't show is how important Butch's presence was in the lane, as he altered a number of Delaware State shot attempts.
Turning Point - Returning with three fouls and Wisconsin only up seven, Alando Tucker scored 10 straight Badger points over a four minute stretch to give Wisconsin a 14-point cushion, there largest lead of the game.
Up Next – Wisconsin travels to South Padre Island and takes on Missouri Valley opponent Missouri State. Missouri State is currently 3-0 and beat Delaware State 77-54 in the first round of the tournament. This will be the first ever meeting between Wisconsin and Missouri State.