MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin defeated South Carolina State 85-50 on Friday night at the Kohl Center in the Badgers’ season opener. And while the victory wasn’t a surprise, it did represent an encouraging start for the Badgers, who begin the season with nearly every player in the rotation filling a new role.
WHY WISCONSIN WON: Wisconsin had a size and skill advantage that materialized quickly against South Carolina State. The Badgers outscored the Bulldogs 20-2 on points in the paint during the first half. South Carolina State attempted to switch to a zone defense, but Wisconsin simply had too many outside shooters that made the Bulldogs pay. D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half. South Carolina State hung around in the second half long enough to make the game interesting, but Wisconsin was never uncomfortable.
WHAT IT MEANS: Wisconsin demonstrated during its two exhibition games that it has a number of scorers capable of easing the burden on forward Ethan Happ, who is the only returning starter off last year’s team. That trend continued in the opener, and the scoring volume was too much for South Carolina State to overcome. Happ led Wisconsin in scoring and rebounding, but four Badgers finished with double-digit points. That’s good news for Wisconsin because opponents are likely to double-team Happ early in the season to make other Badgers beat them.
WHO STARRED: Happ opened the game with a back-to-back layups off spin moves in the post, and he never relented. He dished a nice assist in transition to forward Aleem Ford for a dunk early and put together his typical all-around game. Happ, a third-team Associated Press All-American last season, finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Van Vliet was excellent in his first career start. He tallied 18 points and 8 rebounds and buried 4 3-pointers. Pritzl added 17 points and Trice 13.
Ethan Happ dropping DIMES
This time, it's Aleem Ford on the receiving end for the flush pic.twitter.com/BTvMUmHeys
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 11, 2017
WHO STUMBLED: Badgers forward Alex Illikainen has struggled to find a role with the team this season, and that continued Friday. He entered the game in the second half, committed a turnover and played one minute before being subbed out. Illikainen played a total of 3 minutes in the game. He committed 5 turnovers in 14 minutes during Wisconsin’s two exhibition games. Forward Khalil Iverson didn’t score and didn’t even attempt a shot, but he did finish with 6 rebounds
WHO WAS THERE: Former Badgers guard Josh Gasser was among those in attendance on Friday.
WHO IS NEXT: Wisconsin plays host to Yale at 5 p.m. CT Sunday in the Badgers’ second game of the season.
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) November 11, 2017
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