Edgewood College was the opening opponent in Wisconsin's 2007-08 exhibition season, being just the second Madison-based team to square off against Wisconsin in the program's history, with the first coming in 1904 when UW defeated Co. G Madison, 22-15.
Although the scoring was a touch higher, the result was the same, with Wisconsin controlled the majority of the game in a 77-48 victory.
"I had hoped that we would've come out and be a little more prepared, but you know there's a pretty big buildup for the first time Edgewood College playing at the Kohl Center," head coach Todd Adrian said. "I think coming out of the locker room, we were a little bit intimidated."
This season marked the fourth season in which the NCAA has allowed Division I teams to play Division II and III teams in exhibition play. Although UW has outscored its opponents by an average of 34.0 points in those games and the Badgers had a 25-point halftime lead, Adrian thought his team rebounded in the second half, as the Eagles nearly outscored the Badgers in the second half.
"I was proud of our guys," said Adrian, who has worked a number of summer basketball camps with Ryan in the past. "I challenged them in the locker room at halftime to come out and play Edgewood College basketball and I think we did a much better job of doing that."
Edgewood returned eight letter winners from last year's club and four-of-five starters from a team that went 18-8 last season and finished with a 15-3 record in the Northern Athletics Conference.
The Eagles record last season marked their 20th consecutive winning season, the longest active stream of any college program in Wisconsin.
Two of those starters, senior Charlie Averkamp and junior Chris DeMarco, are All-American candidates, earning third-team All-Midwest Region honors. Members of the All-NAC team, DeMarco tied for the league lead in points per game (20.0) and Averkamp led the conference in rebounding with 10.3 rebounds per contest.
Combined, the duo accounted for 34.3 points per game and 17.5 rebounds per game last season and will certainly be relied upon to deliver again this season for the Eagles.
"I asked those two to take a lot of the responsibility and run with it," Adrian said. "Be a good leader on and off the court and try to challenge their teammates. The guys really look up to Charlie and Chris and I am really excited to see how they respond to it."
Both Averkamp and DeMarco enjoyed some special Kohl Center moments.
On Edgewood's first possession, Averkamp nailed the first shot he took, a three-point jumper from the right wing to give Edgewood the early three-point advantage.
Averkamp struggled the rest of the way, however, finishing the game 3-for-12 with 10 points, but it was his opening shot that created his best memory.
"It felt pretty good," Averkamp said. "Obviously shooting over people 6-11 is a little different than shooting over our guys."
After shooting one-for-seven in the first half, DeMarco rebounded to lead Edgewood with 14 points, shooting four-for-six in the second half.
Evan Klees, one of Edgewood's seniors, had a special experience, according to his coach, as well. Evan's mother works is one of the academic advisors to the Badger team, making it a special experience for his entire family.
"That was a special deal for her son to be playing the Badgers in the Kohl Center, too," Adrian said.
Although the final score won't reflect the run, the Eagles gave the five Badgers on the floor – Jason Bohannon, Trevon Hughes, Michael Flowers, Jon Leuer and J.P. Gavinski – some headaches in the waning minutes of the second half.
Coupled with Brian Donais's three-straight three pointers, Edgewood put Wisconsin on its heels, engineering a 9-0 run that gave the 1,000 or so Edgewood supporters in attendance plenty to cheer about.
"I tell the guys all the time that we aren't playing for the names on the back, we're playing for the name on the front," Adrian said. "When you play for Edgewood College, you're playing for all the people that put the jersey on before you, the people in the stands that are proud and the alumni.
"It's a great opportunity for our school to be represented on the floor."
Even UW head coach Bo Ryan gave Edgewood some nice credit, as he had the public address announcer introduce every player – starter or reserve – in front of the Kohl Center crowd, many of whom received a loud ovation.
"It's good for basketball at all levels," Ryan said. "It's not only universal; it's divisional, even right here on the home front with state teams. Those young men don't get the opportunity to be in a venue like the Kohl Center."