Drawing conclusions from one exhibition basketball game is a risky endeavor, but anyone who watched Wisconsin overcome a slow start to defeat Northern Iowa, 69-38, Wednesday night at the Kohl Center had to draw one: UW freshman Kobe King can play.
King, the player of the year in the state as a senior at La Crosse Central High School last year, was the catalyst behind a first-half scoring binge that carried UW.
Northern Iowa, picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference, held a 10-2 lead when King entered the game with 14 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first half.
King responded by scoring 10 points, on 4-of-4 shooting, to spark a 20-2 run. King started the run with a three-point play and ended it with a 3-pointer to help UW take a 22-12 lead, which ballooned to 35-18 at the break.
King finished a game-high 15 points in 16 minutes for UW, which shot 54.5 percent (6 of 11) from 3-point range and 56.0 percent overall (14 of 25) in the first half.
Ethan Happ finished with nine points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal. He buried a 3-pointer with 16:28 left in the game, much to the delight of the crowd.
Junior Khalil Iverson, who worked on his shooting and ball-handling after last season, hit 2 of 2 3-pointers and finished with nine points, four rebounds and two assists.
Redshirt freshman Aleem Ford hit 2 of 2 3-pointers.
Freshman forward Nate Reuvers didn’t enter the lineup until 12:49 remained in the game but contributed six points and two rebounds.
Freshman guard Brad Davison and redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl added five points apiece for UW. Guard D’Mitrik Trice added four points and three rebounds.
Junior forward Andy Van Vliet, who rarely played last season, got the start and made just 1 of 4 shots. However, he was active on the glass and grabbed four rebounds, added two assists and showed he could be effective on double-teams because of his length.
“Not just one guy is going to be taking all the shots,” Iverson said. “We definitely have guys who are capable of knocking down shots.”
Northern Iowa got 10 points from sophomore guard Juwan McCloud, from Germantown High School. McCloud scored all 10 points in the first 6:41. He hit his first five shots but finished 5 of 10.
Northern Iowa opened the second half with a 7-0 run to close to within 35-25 but Happ scored five points in a 16-0 run to help UW push the lead to 51-25.
Northern Iowa appears to have a paucity of scorers but UW defended well in a closed scrimmage against Missouri and on Wednesday held the Panthers to 32.6% shooting (15 of 46).
“I didn’t think early we were great,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “I thought we let McCloud get too deep off dribble penetration.
“But once we got that squared away and figured out where we could help from and how to handle the ball-screen situations we got better.
“I thought there was a stretch in the second half we were really good…There were no gaps at all. There was no room for them to go. They are learning.”