On UW-Superior's first possession, junior forward Jake Smith sent a high, inaccurate pass to junior forward Marcus Helland, who made the catch, hung in the air and banked it home to complete the alley-oop, sending oo's and ah's through the Kohl Center. But it was all downhill from there for the Yellowjackets, as Wisconsin cruised to an 80-47 preseason win.
It was the second consecutive lopsided preseason victory for the Badgers, who downed Bemidji State 90-54 last week. Wisconsin will now turn its focus to the regular-season opener Nov. 15 against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Before the contest, Badger players and coaches noted the Yellowjackets' outside shooting potential, but Wisconsin executed a dominant defensive performance, closing well on outside shooters and harassing the UW-Superior ball-handlers.
Senior guard Trevon Hughes stood out for the Badgers on the defensive side of the ball, running all over the court to disrupt dribblers and collect loose balls. Hughes finished the game with 10 steals.
""A guy like [Hughes] gets 10 steals and people think, ‘Oh, he stripped the ball 10 times,'"" head coach Bo Ryan said. ""[But] there were deflections, there were loose balls, and he got a lot of them ... He got the steals on loose balls and being active.""
Hughes attributed his defensive effort to the Badgers' depth at guard, knowing he can play his hardest because a quality guard is waiting to replace him when he needs a breather.
""I'm not worried about getting tired,"" Hughes said. ""I'm going to give it my all.""
Senior guard Jason Bohannon also got in on the takeaway action with four steals, part of a team effort that forced 24 turnovers from the Yellowjackets.
When the Badgers were not taking the ball away from UW-Superior, they were upsetting the Yellowjackets' field-goal attempts and forcing bad shots, holding them to 31 percent field-goal shooting and 25 percent three-point shooting.
Another positive Wisconsin can take away from last night's contest was its free-throw shooting. The Badgers went 19-for-32 from the line against Bemidji State, and although they did not get to the line as often last night, they were much more efficient, converting 9-of-11 from the stripe.
On offense, Wisconsin continued to struggle with its outside shooting. Wisconsin shot 25 percent (5-of-20) on three point attempts against Bemidji State, but shot the ball even worse last night, hitting only three of 19 three-point shots for 16 percent.
Hughes and Bohannon combined for a 2-for-11 effort from behind the arc, with Bohannon going 2-for-8 and Hughes 0-for-3. Additionally, junior forward Tim Jarmusz and sophomore guard Jordan Taylor both went 0-for-2, altogether equaling a disappointing shooting performance from the Badgers' three-point threats.
While Wisconsin was not happy with its effort from long range, the players know shooting is something that fluctuates and is a straightforward part of the game to work on.
""Shooting is one of the easiest things to improve, just because of the time and repetition,"" junior forward Keaton Nankivil said. ""It's probably better at this point to be shooting a lower percentage and better at other stuff than it is to be getting all our shots and not doing other stuff.""
Junior forward Jon Leuer was not particularly troubled with Wisconsin's shooting either.
""Shooting over the course of a season is going to come and go,"" Leuer said. ""You're going to have games where you're knocking everything down and other games where it's just happening.""
Leuer then pointed to fundamentals such as defense and rebounding as parts of the game the team must execute consistently, which is what the Badgers did tonight.
Wisconsin used its considerable size advantage to control the glass to create run-out situations on defense and easy shot opportunities on offense.
Leuer and Nankivil each had the most efficient shooting nights for Wisconsin, both shooting 7-for-11 from the field with many close-range field goals.
Leuer grabbed seven rebounds, and freshman guard/forward Ryan Evans had a team-high eight boards.
Evans was the most-used substitute for the Badgers, playing 21 minutes. In addition to his eight rebounds, Evans scored eight points on 4-of-10 shooting. Evans struggled with his outside shooting but was productive inside and had two emphatic slam dunks to rev up the crowd.
Taylor and sophomore forward Rob Wilson were the other two subs to log double-digit minutes. Taylor scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting, and Wilson scored four on 2-for-3 shooting.