Wisconsin exacted its revenge Tuesday night as the Badger men's basketball team did what the men's hockey team could not: Defeat the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
Thanks to a few usual suspects, the Badgers chalked up a resounding 85-53 win. After recently being named to the preseason watch list for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, senior forward Jon Leuer showed why, amassing 22 points, six rebounds and a career-high seven assists.
""We are an unselfish team,"" Leuer said. ""There were some areas tonight where the defense collapsed on me, so I was able to find some guys.""
Senior forward Keaton Nankivil did his part as well, posting 17 points on seven of eight shooting.
Although familiar faces led the way for the Badgers, a group of promising underclassmen spurred the blowout.
Freshman guard Josh Gasser followed his impressive initial appearance in cardinal and white by recording seven points and six rebounds against North Dakota. He also became just the third freshman to start during head coach Bo Ryan's tenure, placing him in the elite company of Devin Harris and Alando Tucker.
Sophomore forward Ryan Evans provided a spark off the Wisconsin bench, snatching six rebounds and matching his career-high of 11 points.
""They really dominated in the paint,"" North Dakota head coach Brian Jone said.
The Badgers starting frontcourt averages a height of 6'9"", while the Sioux counterparts average just 6'7"".
That differential was evident as the Badgers controlled North Dakota near the basket, outscoring the Sioux 40-22 in the paint and winning the rebounding battle 31-20.
Wisconsin was the Sioux's first ranked adversary in their transition to the Division I level and it is clear North Dakota is still getting accustomed to the speed of top-tier opponents. Wisconsin's backcourt exploited that inexperience, forcing 16 turnovers and holding North Dakota to a meager 31 percent from beyond the arc.
While there are many things North Dakota can look back and improve upon, it was not an entirely negative performance. Troy Huff, a Milwaukee native and son of Wisconsin women's basketball's all-time leading rebounder, Theresa Huff, returned to his home state with a chip on his shoulder.
""Active, he's just active. That's the way all players should be,"" Ryan said of Huff.
After leading the Sioux with 18 points in their season opener, he continued to show promise. Not only was Huff a force offensively—he posted team-high 21 points—he also exhibited scrappiness and gusto on the defensive end, sparking his team with a game-high three steals.
Following Tuesday's win over North Dakota, Bo Ryan improved Wisconsin's record against the Sioux to a perfect 5-0 all-time and boosted his own record of home games in November to a spotless 25-0. The Badgers will need another strong performance from both the starters and the bench, as the next foe on tap is the UNLV Running Rebels.
Last year the Rebels made a stirring run to a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin is sure to receive its first test of the young season when the two teams meet in Las Vegas.
""I think we are all ready to go on the road,"" junior point guard Jordan Taylor said.