UNLV shot 39.1% from the field, Wisconsin shot 37.0%. UNLV shot 41.7% from three, Wisconsin shot 38.5%. UNLV shot 71.4% from the free throw line, Wisconsin shot 66.7%. Despite the advantage in all three shooting percentages, Wisconsin won handily Saturday night at the Kohl Center, taking home a 62-51 victory in which the lead was double digits for much of the game.
The Badgers won because they managed to attempt eight more shots from the field and four more shots from the line than the Rebels, allowing them to cancel out the percentage advantages and more. Even though the Badgers made an uncharacteristic 10 turnovers themselves, they won the turnover battle as usual, with UNLV committing 15 of their own. The real victory for Wisconsin came on the glass, as the Badgers rebounded 10 of their 34 missed shots (29.4%) whereas the Rebels only managed to corral four of their 28 missed shots (14.3%) — UNLV didn’t get their first offensive rebound until 10:20 to go in the second half.
Individually, Ben Brust carried the torch for the Badgers. The sophomore hit all seven three-pointers he attempted, tying a school record for most threes without a miss. He went on to finish with 25 of the Badgers 62 points, shooting 8-of-9 from the field overall. Not a single other Badger finished in double figures, as Jared Berggren’s nine points on 3-of-7 shooting was second on the team. Jordan Taylor was ice cold again, failing to hit a single one of his 10 shots from the field, finishing with four points on five shots from the free throw line. He did muster six assists, but the pre-season All American was a secondary (if not tertiary) figure in the Badgers’ victory Saturday.
On the glass, it was Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Josh Gasser with the big contributions. Bruesewitz pulled down four of Wisconsin’s 10 offensive boards and added six more on the defensive end for a total of 10. Evans grabbed nine rebounds and Gasser pulled in eight of his own as the trio finished with 27 of Wisconsin’s 34 boards.
The denial of second shot opportunities and the creation was the key behind the defense for Wisconsin, but UNLV also struggled to hit shots consistently. Outside of Chace Stanback, who scored 16 on 5-of-9 shooting, there was very little positive on the offensive end for the Rebels. Mike Moser, Justin Hawkins, and Oscar Bellfield — previously all in the top 500 most efficient players in the country — combined to score just 16 points on 26 shots from the field. Moser only pulled down two offensive rebounds despite ranking 28th in the nation in offensive rebound rate. Bellfield was 1-for-5 from three despite a 37.7% percentage entering the game. Hawkins was 1-for-5 inside the arc despite a 64.1% percentage entering the game.
The Rebels managed just 51 points on 63 possessions, or 80.9 points per 100 possessions. Their previous low efficiency mark was 103.9 points per 100 possessions against Nevada. In their other two games against top-30 teams in the Ken Pomeroy rankings, North Carolina and Wichita State, the Rebels managed 112.6 and 116.2 points per 100 possessions respectively. This is a legitimately great offensive team, and the Badgers completely shut them down.
Questions remain about the Badgers’ ability to score effectively, especially as long as Jordan Taylor struggles with his shot. But it is clear at this point that their defense is good enough to keep them in any game with any team in any building, and as such they will be a force to be reckoned with come Big Ten conference play.