Friday, November 8, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: No. 21 Wisconsin 86, St. John's 75

As the Wolverines took on UMass-Lowell in what was destined to be a blowout from the moment it was scheduled, the Wisconsin Badgers took the floor against St. John's at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls for what would be, on paper, the first interesting matchup for a Big Ten squad.

The Badgers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, which included Ben Brust's first trey of the year. Shortly thereafter, Josh Gasser hit his first trey in two years, boding well for the Badgers' perimeter shooting for the night. The Badgers started 4-for-8 from beyond the arc; when UW shoots it like that, they can be very difficult to beat.

The biggest development for Bo Ryan's squad has been its ability to push the pace more frequently than has usually been the case. UW found some success early on tonight, grabbing St. John's long rebounds and pushing it for a high-percentage shot of some sort, whether around the rim or a three after an extra pass or two.

Wisconsin raced to a 24-10 lead 10 minutes in, paced by six points apiece from Sam Dekker and Ben Brust and seven from Traevon Jackson.

Frustration began to set in for the Red Storm when Orlando Sanchez got called for an offensive foul 15 feet away from the basket, his third foul of the game. On the other end, Gasser buried his second three to give the Badgers a 31-13 lead that seemed insurmountable given the lack of pep in the Red Storm's step.

In the first half, the Badgers managed a mark of 1.13 points per possession, with the Red Storm going for 0.77 PPP. The Red Storm turned it over 10 times in the first half--paired with a 39.1% from the field, that is not exactly a recipe for success against the Badgers, let alone any team.

As it to say "I'm back," Gasser hit another three early in the second half to put the Badgers up 40-25. Despite the loss in frontcourt production, Gasser's return from injury is a key addition for this swifter version of Badgers basketball.

However, the Red Storm began to show life. A putback slam from Chris Obekpa put the Red Storm down 10 3:30 into the second half.

The Red Storm dunkfest continued, with Sanchez hitting JaKarr Sampson in transition for an authoritative slam. On the ensuing offensive possession, a Sampson putback cut the Wisconsin lead to 49-42.

After a sloppy first half for the Red Storm, they battled back admirably, cutting the deficit to five with nine minutes to go. It will be interesting to see how this St. John's team performs the rest of the way; Steve Lavin's squad definitely has talent, particularly Sanchez and Sampson.

Foul trouble became an issue for the Badgers, with freshman forward Nigel Hayes and Traevon Jackson both carrying four with over nine minutes to play.

Luckily for Wisconsin, following another thunderous Red Storm dunk, Sam Dekker and Ben Brust buried triples on consecutive possessions, completely taking the wind out of the Red Storm's sails.

Shortly thereafter, Duje Dukan, a 6'9'' RS junior from Deerfield, Ill., nailed two straight threes to increase the the UW lead even further. On that note, Dukan is an intriguing option for the Badgers and perhaps the heir apparent to UW's long line of three-point shooting forward types.

From there, the Badgers cruised to a 86-75 victory, an impressive start to the season for a UW squad that will present Big Ten foes with a much different look than it has in recent years. Despite the Red Storm's dazzling play above the rim, they weren't able to get a whole lot in half court situations.

Perhaps the most notable takeaway from this one is Wisconsin's scoring output; in 2012-13, the Badgers scored 80+ just four times.

On the other hand, the Badgers bombared St. John's with three after three, finishing 11-for-23 (47.5%) from beyond the arc tonight. Half court defense plus the three-point shot will continue to be the UW formula for victory.

Wisconsin returns to the Kohl Center on Tuesday, where they will look to avenge last year's loss against Florida (9:00 ET, ESPN2).

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