It’s official; this Badgers squad is off the best start in the history of Wisconsin basketball with a mark of 12-0 after defeating the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky 86-61 Saturday afternoon in Madison. The 1993/94 Wisconsin team held the previous best start at 11-0.
And it was a bloodbath.
The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers haven’t just breezed through some cupcake opponents either en route to their blemish-free record. The combined winning percentage of their opponents is .703 against everyone other than the Badgers.
Not too shabby.
Bucky has defeated numerous power conference foes in impressive fashion and although Eastern Kentucky isn’t a traditional basketball power it was still an impressive win.
Wisconsin now has a two week break until their next game, which is against the Prairie View A&M Panthers.
Here Is How Saturday’s Game Went Down:
Early on the Badgers and Colonels traded buckets and Eastern Kentucky jumped out to an 8-7 lead. That was the last time the Colonels would want to look at the scoreboard all day.
Wisconsin went on a 10-0 run, led by senior Frank Kaminsky’s back-to-back buckets.
Eastern Kentucky’s senior Orlando Williams responded by hitting a three to stop the bleeding at 17-11.
Then, sophomore Sam Dekker took over scoring multiple buckets to bring the Badgers’ lead to 23-11. Freshman Bronson Koenig, who has been receiving many minutes of late, then scored to give Wisconsin a 25-11 advantage.
But Dekker wasn’t done; he would add a beautiful three point play to extend the lead to 28-11. His star is ready to shine come Big Ten play.
At this point, the game was over. The Badgers drove into the lane early and often to cause fits for the Colonel’s defense while Wisconsin’s defense smothered their offense.
By halftime it was 42-23 and Wisconsin could taste the history of being the first Wisconsin squad to begin a year 12-0. At the half Wisconsin was 15-20 on free throw attempts and out rebounded Eastern Kentucky 18-8. The Colonels didn’t have an offensive rebound until 14 minutes into the game. Dekker led all scorers with 15 points in the opening stanza.
The second half went a lot like the first as the Badgers continued on their near-perfect play.
The Badgers topped the 50-point mark with 16:38 left in the game as they took a 51-27 lead on a transition layup by Kaminsky. This is not the Badgers of old, this team can score at will from numerous sources.
Senior Ben Brust would then heat up hitting two consecutive three-pointers to give the Badgers a 59-31 lead. He would end up hitting five three-pointers on the game.
At the 12:26 mark freshman Nigel Hayes showed his athletic ability by scoring a nice three-point play as the shot clock was winding down and the Badgers’ lead swelled to 62-33.
Things would only get better for Hayes as he hit double figures for the first time in his career at the 11:21 mark, with eight of the points coming from the charity stripe. But he wasn’t done.
Hayes was 10-21 from the free throw line on the year coming into the game.
Hayes would end up going 13-17 on free throw attempts on the game and finished the game with a career high 17 points. If Hayes can continue to shoot this well from the free throw line this will really give the Badgers a new, and vastly needed, scoring dimension down low as big bodies begin to collide in Big Ten play.
There was a two minute stretch were Bo Ryan had three true freshmen on the court playing together in the second half around the nine-minute mark. An unprecedented sight during Ryan’s tenure at Wisconsin but it speaks to how much quality depth and young players this Badgers’ roster boasts.
The Badgers could have scored 100 points if they desired but Ryan elected to give some actual minutes to his bench, giving valuable playing time to the far end of the bench as the second half wound down. Players like Evan Anderson and Vitto Brown got to see some action at the Kohl Center.
Glenn Cosey, the Colonel’s best player and pre-season first team All Ohio Valley selection passed his season average in points with 21 on the day but almost all of his points came in garbage time after the game was well in hand. Wisconsin did great to hold him in check early in the game.
The final score was 86-61 and it wasn’t nearly that close.
As a team the Badgers shot 60.5% from the field, 60% from three-point range going 9-15 (Wow) and shot 75.8% from the free throw line going 25-33 (Thanks Hayes). Wisconsin out rebounded Eastern Kentucky 33-20 and didn’t fall victim to the Colonel’s aggressive defense.
Brust led the Badgers in scoring with 20 points going 5-8 from three-point land. Hayes scored 17, Dekker ended with 16 and Kaminsky muscled in 13 points in a game where the Badgers received the most bench scoring to date. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.
Game Ball: Nigel Hayes, correcting his early season free throw shooting deficiencies Hayes showed his poise and ability to draw fouls and deliver from the stripe. His career high 17 points should add confidence to his game and when a kid of his athletic ability gets confident? Look out.
What This Means: This Badgers team has accomplished the best start in school history and is on track to accomplish a lot more before the season ends. Wisconsin is battle-tested and ready for Big Ten play; let’s hope they keep playing like this all the way until April.
Dark Spot: N/A. There was no flaw to the Badgers’ game on Saturday afternoon.
Looking Forward: The Badgers do not play again for two weeks so now the Bucky faithful will have to sit patiently and wait for the next game. To kill time they can watch Arizona, Syracuse and Ohio State play in their various games and hope for a loss or two so they can move up in the rankings.
A No. 1 ranking ast some point this season is not a far-fetched dream.