In a final tune-up before the regular season kicks off Nov. 8, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team took down head coach Bo Ryan’s former program UW-Platteville 80-51 in an exhibition meeting at the Kohl Center.
Everyone on the active roster received some playing minutes Wednesday night, but Ryan rolled out a smaller veteran lineup to start the game with redshirt junior Josh Gasser at the point, junior Traevon Jackson and senior Ben Brust at guards alongside junior Frank Kaminsky and sophomore Sam Dekker at the forward spots.
Platteville was able to hang with Wisconsin in the first half thanks in large part to a differential in three-point shooting. In the opening half, the Pioneers hit 4-of-7 shots from downtown while the Badgers struggled from distance going 1-for-11.
Ryan admitted some of his team’s early struggles were due to some experimentation on his part in trying to find the right rotations.
“I’m still trying to find out who’s ready to grab the minutes. Every coach is at this time,” Ryan said. “In the second half, I thought we settled into a pretty good groove and looked better playing off of one another.”
Redshirt junior forward Duje Dukan was the first to come off of the bench for Ryan, but it was freshman forward Nigel Hayes that created the buzz for the Wisconsin bench players.
The Toledo, Ohio native ended up leading the team with six rebounds — five offensive — and eight points, while nearly splitting time evenly with Kaminsky.
“When you look at the stats, for that number of minutes, to get that many rebounds, I don’t care if you’re playing a team with three 7-footers or 6-5 to 6-8 guys,” Ryan said. “He showed that he’s here for a reason. He’s not going away anytime soon.”
Although Hayes ended the game on a strong note, he did struggle to find his rhythm when he first checked in which he admitted was a product of some early-season nerves.
“Being a freshman out there for the first time in front of all the fans, it was a little uncomfortable and there was a little nervousness in me. Which is the reason why I missed that early layup,” Hayes said while Brust and Gasser jokingly mocked him. “I settled down and got more comfortable and just realized that I’m still playing basketball. It’s the same game, I just have to get out there, be comfortable and have fun.”
Another question mark heading into the season is the strength and confidence Gasser has in his surgically repaired knee after he tore an ACL one year ago.
Gasser was making hard cuts and driving hard into the lane — good signs for his recovery — while finishing 2-5 from the field with seven points in 25 minutes.
“He looked fine,” Ryan said of the starting point guard. “He didn’t shy away from anything. He can shoot it better than that, but I think that will come. He hasn’t been under the lights too much for long periods of time. We just hope in our scrimmage on Saturday he’ll look even better and just keep progressing.”
After leading by only seven at the end of the opening half, Wisconsin was able to turn it on in the second half hitting 4-of-7 shots from deep — two coming from Brust who led all scorers with 20 points — and ripping off runs of eight and nine points.
Highly-recruited guard Bronson Koenig of La Crosse got to see the floor more in the second half, finishing with 14 minutes of action, but was unable to find a bucket on the scoring end.
After the game, Platteville head coach Jeff Gard, brother of Wisconsin assistant coach Greg Gard, was quick to give his thoughts on Wisconsin after losing by 29.
“Boy, these guys are going to be pretty good.”