Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin to welcome Duke to Kohl Center in top-five matchup

For the second time in Kohl Center history, two top-five teams, No. 2 UW and No. 4 Duke, will square off as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Hayley Cleghorn

After a successful weekend in the Bahamas where the Wisconsin men’s basketball team won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the Badgers head back home for what is considered the most highly anticipated matchup in college basketball so far this season.

No. 2 Wisconsin (7-0) will take on No. 4 Duke (7-0) in a top-five battle at the Kohl Center Wednesday night as a part of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The matchup is headlined by two preseason All-Americans in Wisconsin senior forward Frank Kaminsky and Duke freshman forward Jahlil Okafor. Both players are at the top of the list of National Player of the Year candidates and the matchup between the two stars is sure to be most of the talk as tip-off approaches.


Despite the talk and the hype around the two All-Americans, Kaminsky and Wisconsin are keeping their heads straight and focusing on the team’s main goal: to win the game.

“This game isn’t about me. It’s about our team,” Kaminsky said. “I want to win more than anything and don’t really care what happens with me as long as we win.”

Even though the team result is the only one that truly matters, it doesn’t mean the matchup down low should be ignored.

Okafor, who is projected by many to be the first overall pick in next year’s NBA draft, is off to a hot start that rivals that of Kaminsky. The freshman from Chicago and former No. 1 recruit in the class of 2014, according to ESPN, is averaging 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game through Duke’s first seven wins. On the other hand, Kaminsky is averaging 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Badgers.

With the numbers being nearly identical, it’s no wonder these two are all the talk heading into Wednesday. And from what Okafor has done thus far, it’s no wonder he’s at the top of everybody’s draft boards.

“You can put names on guys, McDonald’s All-American Player of the Year, Freshman Player Of The Year, but [Okafor] backs it up,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said.

Not only has Okafor backed up the hype surrounding his play, but Duke as a whole has been living up to and in some ways exceeding any preseason expectations as well. Through seven games this season, Duke is scoring 90.4 points per game while only allowing 59.1 points per game.

So, while Okafor will be Wisconsin’s main concern Wednesday night, Duke has plenty of other players that will be able to step up, including senior guard Quinn Cook and freshman forward Justise Winslow who are averaging 15.6 and 13 points per game, respectively.

“Coach [Ryan] has been watching a lot of film; we’ve been watching some film,” Kaminsky said. “Hopefully we’ll just be able to pick up on small things that we might be able to do to neutralize [Okafor] and some other guys on their team.”

With both of Wisconsin’s guards out due to foul trouble against Georgetown last Thursday, Bronson Koenig came off the bench and tallied 14 points to help lead UW to the 68-65 win.
Hayley Cleghorn/The Badger Herald

The Badgers, however, will have a supporting cast that goes beyond Kaminsky that will compete with Duke’s role players. Sophomore forward Nigel Hayes, who has arguably been the most improved player in the entire country, is averaging 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Junior forward Sam Dekker is not far behind him, averaging 12.7 points per contest.

But Wisconsin’s supporting cast goes well beyond the Badgers’ front court and even the team’s starters. In fact, this past week in the Bahamas, it was the first two players off the bench who shined for the Badgers after a couple players were plagued with foul trouble.

In Wisconsin’s semifinal game against Georgetown, it was sophomore guard Bronson Koenig who came off the bench and scored 14 points with starting point guard Traevon Jackson and redshirt senior guard Josh Gasser in foul trouble for the entire game. And in the championship against Oklahoma, it was redshirt senior Duje Dukan who scored 13 points after filling in for Kaminsky, who sat nearly the entire first half with two fouls.

“That’s what I think makes us pretty tough,” Dekker said. “We have a lot of guys that can come in and play big minutes and fill in for guys that need a break or are in foul trouble.”

In a game where two of the country’s elite teams are going up against each other, it will be important for both Wisconsin and Duke to bring more than just their frontcourt stars if either wants to walk away victorious.

“Whenever you can play against good competition like that, I think it raises your level of competition as well,” Dekker said. “It’s going to be a battle.”

The Badgers will take on the Blue Devils in a primetime matchup at the Kohl Center Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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