Brust leads Badgers past Bowling Green
History shows Wisconsin's defense will improve as the basketball season advances toward March.
If UW's defense makes the expected jump and can complement the versatility the Badgers have displayed on offense through five games, Bo Ryan's team will be entertaining to watch and tough to defeat.
UW's spacing and ball movement were excellent Thursday night at the Kohl Center. That led to an array of open looks from inside and from the three-point line in front of an announced crowd of 16,807.
With the Badgers hitting those shots at a dizzying pace, the Badgers handled Bowling Green, 88-64, in their first game of the Cancun Challenge.
“This group has a lot of guys who put work in and have made sure that when they get the opportunity with an open look, they're going to knock it down,” senior guard Ben Brust said after hitting 5 of 6 three-pointers en route to a game-high 19 points. “It shows right here. I don't have to say anything. The proof is in the pudding.
“We've got a lot of guys who can score and pass the ball to get good looks.”
Six players scored in double figures for UW, ranked No. 12 in The Associated Press poll, and eight scored overall. UW hit 12 of 20 three-pointers (60 percent) and 28 of 51 shots overall (54.9 percent). The Badgers had 14 assists on the 28 baskets and hit 20 of 26 free-throw attempts (76.9 percent).
Sophomore forward Sam Dekker added 14 points for UW (5-0). Ditto for junior forward Frank Kaminsky, two nights after his program-record, 43-point performance against North Dakota. Dekker had four turnovers, but he also scored six consecutive points to spark a decisive 24-8, first-half run to help UW take a 44-28 halftime lead.
Junior guard Traevon Jackson put together another solid all-around game and added 13 points, six rebounds, three steals, two assists and one turnover in 31 minutes. Junior guard Josh Gasser contributed 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes. Freshman guard Bronson Koenig added 10 points.
UW has four players averaging at least 11.8 points per game, led by Kaminsky at 16.6.
“We have four or five guys that on any night could easily lead our team in scoring,” Dekker said.
Bowling Green coach Louis Orr, who saw his team fall to 1-2, noted during scouting that the Falcons would have to contend with multiple UW scoring threats.
“We knew that everyone on their team was a threat,” he said. “That comes with their offense.
“It is a five-man offense. That is the way they play. That is what helps make them dangerous because you've got to guard everybody, even the guys off the bench.”
Now the Badgers have to continue to shore the defense, which is allowing 68.6 points per game. That is an increase of 11.0 points per game through five games last season.
“I definitely don't think we're happy at all with our defensive performance,” Gasser said. “Sixty-four, that's still too much. Too many points in the paint, too many uncontested layups. Just easy buckets that we're not accustomed to giving up.
“We're still working through some things.”