University of Wisconsin basketball officially joined the rest of the country for the tip off of the basketball season at the Kohl Center as the Badgers (1-0) defeated St. Francis (0-1) Tuesday night.

As the lights came up, the Badgers starters came out too, with Chucky Hepburn, Brad Davison, Johnny Davis, Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl leading the way. 

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First half

The Badgers opened up the game by scoring with a trip to the free-throw line. From there, St. Francis had their moment, getting into double digits with decent pace as the Badgers grew their paint identity. This is all the room they had though as the Badgers quickly found the wind behind the offensive backing of Johnny Davis.

This scoring was added upon by powerful output from Wisconsin’s guards Hepburn and Lorne Bowman II, who both hit some solid threes.

The Terriers simply could not buy a shot, shooting just 29% while the Badgers slashed their way to the tune of 46.9% on a scorching 5/10 from three, mainly from Davison and Bowman. St. Francis looked lost, notching nine turnovers to the Badgers three. Wisconsin had a 14-3 run to end the half, as they were up 42-21.

Second half

The Badgers frankly came out on their heels, fading from the dominant performance at the end of the first half.

Even with a comfortable twenty-point lead, the Badgers would have benefited from a strong showing in the second half, which wasn’t the case. The team stalled on offense, sliding on a three-minute scoring drought that was countered by the Terriers outscoring them 10-7.

Much of the scoring for the Terriers came from Patrick Emilien, who ended up with 18 points to lead all scorers, with most of his buckets coming from inside the paint. Even through the mid-game slump, the Badger’s talent shined with fresh faces like Hepburn and Chris Vogt at the forefront. Vogt grabbing nine rebounds by the end of the game.

Another factor that helped bolster Wisconsin in the second half and the game overall was their pace, pushing it more than they have in past years. Following the game, Hepburn, a significant catalyst of this pace, said, “To play fast is always something I like to do.”

This pace caused more turnovers than we are used to from Wisconsin. When paired with some mosques in the paint, it may have led to the lackluster start to the second half.

Words from the game

Coach Greg Gard on Davis’ strong performance

What? Five assists no turnovers that’s pretty good.”

Davis on performance of his teammates

“I thought we played really well these guys next to me [Crowl(11 points, 8 rebounds) Hepburn(13 points)] stepped up.”

Gard on paint touches

“We had too much dribble penetration, certainly because of some odd combinations of lineups out there too we got spread out a little bit.”

Gard on Vogt’s strong performance

He’s long … He understands who he is, he understands what he’s good at, he understands what he’s not good at and he plays to his strengths.”

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Takeaways

Hepburn very well may be the transcendent talent he’s been made out to be

Hepburn started his first game as a Badger — the first freshman to do so since Devin Harris in 2001. While this news was plastered all over Twitter and will be in every story following his performance, what was truly impressive is the fact that he lived up to the hype.

Hepburn looked like a Big Ten guard picking up full court and dogging guys on the defensive end. Hepburn utilized his defense to fuel his confidence on offense, using his strong frame to post up inside while shooting 66% from three. If Hepburn continues to stick to his guns, I would not be surprised to see him rise to the top in a conference loaded with strong freshmen.

Vogt and Crowl add a lanky duo that just might work in Big Ten play

For a majority of the preseason, Crowl has been paired not only in games but in much of his media coverage with Ben Carlson. While Carlson did play Tuesday, it was the paired output of Vogt and Crowl that stood out. Vogt looked like a human spider flowing around the hoop blocking and grabbing what came near the cylinder.

Crowl proved that he is a scoring threat leading all bigs with 11 points all while switching on to guards, moving his feet and avoiding foul trouble. While it is far too early to rule out Carlson as an ingredient in the storied Wisconsin post vanguard, today it looks like the two most productive centers are Vogt and Crowl.

Unspoken sparks off the bench

Gard has previously stated: “The nice thing about this group is that they are so competitive in practice, they know if you show up in practice coach will give you a chance.” Combined with the opening practices performances, a good amount of weight seems to be placed on the rotation players. Gard gave ten guys good minutes with two of them really showing out in the time they were on the court.

Bowman stepped past the W at mid-court and promptly put his name in the running for Wisconsin’s shooter. Bowman hit three of four from three with two coming from deep three-point range.

As the team faded to start the second half, Gard called on Carter Gilmore and he frankly delivered. Gilmore has been very aggressive in practice from a scoring standpoint and this carried over to the game as he snapped the Badger’s three-minute scoring drought.

Gard is making it look like we may see a good amount of new faces coming on and off the court — a strategy that gives a lot of room for both Bowman and Gilmore to show their offensive talent.

Who will take the shot

Over the last season, the question came up of who will be the guy the Badgers can turn to for scoring when the offense stalls. Last year, that question was left unanswered.

With the fresh faces on this year’s team, the same question can be posed again. Against St Francis, the answer began to partly reveal itself with Davis stepping up. Davis was a real scoring threat, looking for both his own buckets and others. With this being said, I would have liked him to be more aggressive going to the paint. He settled for mid-range shots on several occasions where he could have gone to the rim and used his athleticism to get a basket.

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Looking forward

 The Badgers (1-0) will hit the court again Friday against UW-Green Bay (0-1) at the Kohl Center. It will be a night honoring Bo Ryan whose son, Will, coaches the Phoenix.

It’s officially basketball season, which means we sleep in March!