Wisconsin beat Xavier 77-68 Tuesday in their first road test of the season, improving to 2-0 on the year.
Here are four takeaways from the evening.
Concentration of scoring
Scoring nearly 80 points is never a bad thing, particularly against a Big East opponent. Yet only five Badgers scored, and senior forward Ethan Happ (30 points), sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice (22) and sophomore guard Brad Davison (19) combined for 71 of the 77 points. Kobe King and Khalil Iverson were the only two others who scored. Head coach Greg Gard and his staff must love seeing such high output from his stars, but Tuesday’s performance indicates that if these stars have an off day, it may be difficult to find secondary scoring options.
Free throw shooting still an issue
Low free throw conversion rates have characterized recent Wisconsin teams. After a relatively strong performance from the charity stripe in the exhibition against UW-Oshkosh and the opener against Coppin State, the Badgers struggled Tuesday, shooting only 46 percent on free throw. They had built up a big enough lead to withstand the Xavier comeback, but that will not always be the case. Free throw shooting will be crucial down the stretch in close games and will be an area to improve upon as the Big Ten campaign looms.
Trice vastly improved from behind the line
Upon returning from injury, Trice has shown himself to be a legitimate weapon from three-point land for the Badgers. For the second straight game, Trice knocked down five three-point field goals and is shooting a red-hot 71 percent from deep. Trice now has just two fewer three-pointers than he had all of last year.
The Badgers point guard not only returned healthy but as a marksman, too.
Badgers rotation becoming clearer
While the top of the Badgers’ rotation was fairly solidified coming into the season, the rest of the team was murkier. Freshman guard Tai Strickland came in as a highly-touted recruit, sophomore guard Trevor Anderson transferred from nearby UW-Green Bay and forward Charles Thomas IV returned for his senior season.
But so far, freshman guard Kobe King has played more than all of them, earning the sixth-most minutes on the team with 38. Junior guard Brevin Pritzl and King were the only players Tuesday night to come off the bench and total at least 10 minutes (Anderson played five, Thomas IV two). Anderson will be somewhat encouraged by his role in the rotation so far, while Strickland and sophomore Walt McGrory seem to be glued to the bench for the foreseeable future.
The Badgers’ next test is a home game against Houston Baptist on Saturday at 7 p.m.