The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball started their season on Friday night with a dominant 85-50 win against the South Carolina State Bulldogs.
Wisconsin hardly missed their four recently graduated starters from last season as they had many different players step up in their absence. Forward Andy Van Vliet from Belgium, who barely played both of the last two seasons, took a massive step forward in his development this offseason and proved himself tonight with an impressive 18 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. The 7-footer also made four out of his five three-point attempts.
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In addition to Van Vliet’s performance, the Badgers win was aided by star forward Ethan Happ, who did not disappoint with 20 points, 11 rebounds and eight for 11 inside the arch. He made plays on the defensive end as well by making a couple of steals as well.
Happ’s only shortcoming on Friday night was his free throw shooting, where he made only four out of his nine free throws. This is one area of Happ’s game that has been an issue in the past and could potentially hold him out of National Player of the Year conversations if it continues.
The Badgers backcourt also came up big against the Bulldogs and made Koenig and Showalter’s absences hardly noticeable. D’Mitrik Trice had a solid 13 points and five assists and made three out of his six three-point attempts while fellow sophomore Brevin Pritzl had 17 points and two steals and made three of his six threes as well.
The ability to shoot the ball from deep and stretch the floor has been key for the Badgers success in the past and it looks like this group will be able to do just that. Three of the Badgers five starters made at least three three-pointers in the opening game, which is a sign of great things to come. If Happ can add a consistent three-point shot, this starting unit could be deadly come Big Ten play.
To complement their hot shooting performance, the Badgers also came to play on defense. They managed to hold the Bulldogs to a mere 33 percent shooting from the field and did not allow any individual Bulldog to score more than 13 points. If the Badgers continue to play this good on defense throughout the season, they are going to be very tough to beat.
Up next for the Badgers is a game against Yale on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. at the Kohl Center. The game will be shown on the Big Ten Network. For those of you without tickets, tune in to watch the Badgers play a rare game against an Ivy League opponent.