After Khalil Iverson posted a zero-point, four-turnover performance in the Badgers’ season opener against South Carolina State, head coach Greg Gard’s confidence in his third-year forward didn’t waver.
“There’s gonna be some nights when it’s [Iverson], as it has been in some of the exhibitions, and there’s gonna be nights when it’s other guys,” he said. “I think we have the ability to spread it around a little bit and whoever happens to find themselves in the right spot at the right time, it could be their night.”
Sunday was Iverson’s night at the Kohl Center as he exploded for a career-high 17 points in Wisconsin’s (2-0) 89-61 rout of Yale (0-2).
The Delaware, Ohio native found himself under the basket ad nauseum against the Bulldogs, finishing 8-of-9, his lone miss a three-pointer in the first half.
After a short jumper got him on the scoreboard for the first time this season, Iverson ramped things up a minute later when he caught the ball on the right wing and drove to the basket, slamming home a ferocious dunk over Yale’s Blake Reynolds.
His 13 first-half points powered the Badgers to a 21-point halftime lead that would never dip below 17 in the second period. But despite the big day, Iverson said his point total boiled down to circumstance and his teammates’ willingness to find him running the court.
“The first game I know I didn’t shoot the ball a single time, but it wasn’t intentional or anything,” Iverson said. “In this game I was just going with the flow and got out in transition a couple of times and people found me.”
Not far behind Iverson in the scoring column was sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice, who tallied 11 of his 14 points in the second stanza. He, too, missed just one shot on the night and nailed both of his 3-point attempts. The two were joined by redshirt sophomore forward Andy Van Vliet and redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ in scoring double digits, finishing with 13 and 12 points, respectively.
“Going into the season, there was a lot of people saying, 'Who's gonna step up this year?' I'm just very happy to say that it's a lot of different guys, you know? It's not one or two other guys,” Happ said. “Khalil's played really well for us but it's not just Khalil, it's different guys on different nights. It's very important to have that many scoring threats on the floor.”
That type of versatility on the offensive end is what Gard thinks makes his team so dangerous. He said that it’s a product of the way his players have come together and become a unit that trusts each other despite its youth.
“When you have a group that likes each other and really has bonded really well, I think you can have those type of nights where you really share the ball and nobody cares who scores as long as Wisconsin scores,” Gard said.
Though the Badgers have now blown out back-to-back opponents and shown cohesion in an almost entirely new starting lineup, Gard said there’s still work to be done.
“We're still growing. We're not where we need to be yet,” he said. “But in terms of the versatility and the unselfishness in this group, I think that's pretty evident.”
Wisconsin will test that versatility Thursday against No. 17 Xavier, the Badgers’ first ranked opponent in a slew of games against teams in the AP Poll. Tipoff at the Kohl Center is set for 7:30 p.m.