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Although the 64-47 score might seem like the No. 21 Wisconsin men’s basketball team handily beat the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the final exhibition game of the season, it does not tell the whole tale.
The game was a story of two halves. After the first half, the Badgers were only leading 28-25. Wisconsin shot a mere 9-for-20 from the field and had seven turnovers. The Warhawks were able to keep pace with the Badgers, who were out-rebounded by Wisconsin 11-12, and had one fewer turnover.
“I thought we held our own for 30 minutes,” UW-Whitewater head coach Pat Miller said. “Then, we got a little tired. Their strength and athleticism wore us down, and it was really telling down the stretch.”
With 10:03 left in the first half, the Badgers were able to build a 16-11 lead over the Warhawks but were then held without a field goal for almost 4 1/2 minutes before senior forward Joe Krabbenhoft was able to hit a layup to keep Wisconsin ahead 22-17.
Coming out of the locker room to start the second half was a different story. Although the Warhawks were able to rally in the beginning of the half to cut the lead to 44-42, the Badgers were able to hold UW-Whitewater without a field goal for the remaining 8:45 of the game. Overall, Wisconsin held Whitewater to just 3-for-18 from the floor and out-rebounded the Warhawks 39-22 for the game.
“We knew we had to step it up in the locker room,” Wisconsin senior forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. “When we first got in there, it was the guys talking among each other, but we knew what we had to do. It always starts on the defensive end with us. … We knew we had to pick it up.”
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was impressed by the way many of his players came off the bench to provide an added spark to their team. He commended freshman guard Jordan Taylor for turning his game around after committing three turnovers. After the three giveaways, he provided three assists and had a steal.
Ryan also saw the resilience of his team, especially those off the bench, as one of the major positives that came out of the game.
“What I can say about the win is they found a way,” Ryan said. “Look at the rebounding and the shooting percentages. Whitewater gave us all they had.”
The Wisconsin victory came against Miller, who played for Ryan for a semester during his tenure at UW-Platteville. Overall, the Wisconsin head coach was pleased to see the continuing tradition of solid programs in his former division.
“He has come a long way,” Ryan said. “He has done a good job with getting those guys to run stuff that he wants run. I don’t think there is any question that they are going to be pretty tough. Them and [UW]-Platteville and anybody else in that league.”
Although it was their final game of the exhibition season before they begin the regular season against Long Beach State Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center, the Badgers acknowledge they have a lot to work on, but they know they will get it right before the seasons starts.
“I think, along with the rest of my teammates, we need to get better as a team,” senior forward Marcus Landry said. “You’ve been watching Wisconsin basketball for a long time, and you know as the years have gone on and as the season goes on, we don’t do anything but get better.”