In Wisconsin’s season opener against South Carolina State, Andy Van Vliet scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Two day later, against Yale, he scored 13 points on nine field goal attempts.
The Antwerp, Belgium, native might not reach those numbers for the remainder of the season.
Van Vliet was replaced by redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford in the starting lineup against UCLA and played just two minutes before recording five minutes in the Badgers’ (3-3) 71-49 win over Milwaukee (4-2) Friday night.
The redshirt sophomore forward was given a starting role to open the season, but as he repeatedly underwhelmed following a strong season debut, head coach Greg Gard has been forced to look elsewhere for frontcourt production.
Against the Panthers, Gard burned the redshirt of freshman forward Nate Reuvers, his top recruit who had yet to take the court this season. Reuvers entered the game at the 14:31 mark of the first half and wasted no time looking toward the rim.
He took five shots in the first half, including two 3-pointers, but failed to connect on any of them. Despite the poor showing from the floor, Reuvers did look serviceable in finding the right place to shoot the ball and played relatively consistent defense on the other end of the court.
Freshman guard Brad Davison turned in his best performance of the season, making plays all over the court. He drew an offensive foul just two minutes into the game and buried 5-of-6 3-pointers.
In the starting lineup for the second-straight game, Davison finished with a team- and career-high 19 points in just 22 minutes. He has increased his point total in every game this season.
Alongside Davison in the starting lineup for the second time was Ford, a 6-foot-8 utility knife whose versatility Gard and his staff love. The IMG Academy product has yet to put together a fully complete performance, but Friday night he dished out a team-high five assists and nabbed seven rebounds to guide the Badgers to victory.
Fellow freshman Kobe King recorded his second-consecutive efficient performance, scoring eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from downtown.
.@BadgerMBB held Milwaukee to 23 points in the first half thanks to plays like this from @KingKobe27. #Badgers lead 28-23 pic.twitter.com/r9iyFTCaF1— Tommy Valtin-Erwin (@TommyValtin) November 25, 2017
After leading by just five points heading into the locker room, UW pulled away in the second period thanks to an 11-2 run to open the half. The Badgers would eventually push that lead to the final margin of 22 by the time the buzzer sounded.
Redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ looked exactly like he has in every game thus far this year: dominant. He carved up the Panthers in the paint to the tune of 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds.
This is the type of stuff that makes @EthanHapp22 so valuable to UW. Just completely relentless pic.twitter.com/AnOlG98EpA— Tommy Valtin-Erwin (@TommyValtin) November 25, 2017
Happ also attempted his fourth 3-pointer of the season, which came closer than any of his previous shots from range but rimmed out at the last moment.
Despite limited minutes for seven-footer Van Vliet, the Badgers dominated on the offensive boards. The Panthers had been the second-best defensive rebounding team in the nation but surrendered 12 offensive rebounds to UW, leading to 19 second-chance points.
After this brief return home, the Badgers hit the road again this weekend, heading down to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers (6-0) on Monday night. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.