From the start of the game though, it was evident that FIU wasn't going to roll over for the Badgers, challenging Wisconsin from the perimeter and in the paint, wearing brand new practice gear supplied to them in the process.
"We had shoes on because coach got us some shoes and some practice gear and that's all we need," FIU head coach Sergio Ruoco. "We played a top 20 team at their place and we played them hard. We came here to get something out of it and the 18 hours together we'll use as a positive."
In the end however, it was the Badgers (7-1) that added to the travel plight of the Golden Panthers (3-5), beating FIU 79-63 on the heels of an outstanding perimeter shooting performance by one of Wisconsin's oldest guards and one of their youngest, as both seemingly couldn't miss from beyond the arc.
Freshman Jason Bohannon, who is quickly becoming one of the Badgers' best pure shooters, had his best shooting game for Bo Ryan's squad. Bohannon's line surely didn't make him sound like he was playing in only his eighth collegiate game, as he finished with 9 points on 3-6 from beyond the arc. After another strong performance, Bohannon is quickly becoming one of Ryan's first long-range options off the bench.
"We expect good players – guys who are confident and want to play," Ryan said. "They get their opportunities and you need to take advantage of them. I like people who expect to be on the floor and not tentative or nervous. You earn your minutes and he has earned his minutes. He was three-for-six and had nine points on six shots. You'll take that anytime."
In addition to Bohannon, Kammron Taylor continued his stout play over the course of the past week. Taylor, who has averaged 17 points on 63 percent shooting in the last two games, led Wisconsin with 16 points on 63 percent shooting. For the first time this season, Taylor was perfect from the arc, going 4-for-4 from distance.
"He was open [all game]," Ryan said. "I might have made those if I was out there on the court. I couldn't believe how wide open he was. FIU was trying to double and great pressure on the ball. Kam moved well away from the ball, which is something he has been working on."
With their victory over FIU, Wisconsin now enters into their most difficult stretch of the non-conference season in which the Badgers next five games are against teams that made the NCAA tournament a year ago (Winthrop, at Marquette, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Pacific). It's safe to say that the next three weeks will certainly tell how successful the Badgers will be this season.
"That is why people were saying out non-conference schedule was one of the toughtest in the country," Ryan said. "If we are going to be playing well in the Big Ten, we need to play well against the teams coming up."
"These next five games will define how we going to be as a team," Alando Tucker said. "It takes games like this where we have to fight threw. We haven't played on the road officially yet. They are going to be tough."
Player of the Game: The lack of sleep didn't seem to bother FIU's Johwen Villegas. Villegas scored a game-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting. What is most impressive about his performance was that Villegas didn't make a two-point basket, as he shot 7-for-10 from behind the arc for 21 of his 24 points.
"He had six threes last year at Depaul," Rouco said. "He played junior college ball in Iowa. I have to bring him to the Midwest more often. Maybe this beautiful weather you all have up here makes him shoot better."
Turning Point: Wisconsin found itself down by one early in the first half until Bohannon came off the bench to give the Badgers a jolt. Bohannon connected on two long-range threes in a span just over minute to key an 11-0 Wisconsin run that started the Badger ball rolling.
Stat of the Game: After scoring his tenth point on a lay-up late in the first half, senior Alando Tucker has scored at least 10 or more points in 30 of his last 31 games.
Up Next: Wisconsin wraps a three game home stand when the Badgers take on the ultimate bracket buster team, better known as the Winthrop Eagles. Members of the Big South, Winthrop is off to another stellar start this season with a 5-2 record. Winthrop is one of the many teams slowly shedding the label of mid-major.
This season, Winthrop has play North Carolina on a ‘neutral court' in Charlotte and traveled to Maryland, challenging both teams deep into the second half on their home court. This is the first ever meeting between the two schools and should provide a difficult challenge for the Badgers.
"Depth is going to be important for playing a team like Winthrop," Ryan said. "We're certainly going to find out what our team is about."