The mentee has not become the mentor just yet, as Greg Gard’s No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers took down Will Ryan’s Green Bay Phoenix 82-42 Tuesday afternoon, coasting to a victory behind sophomore forward Tyler Wahl’s first career double-double.
Wahl was a spark plug off the bench, stuffing his stat-line with 11 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals in just 20 minutes.
“Coach actually told me to bring some energy when I got subbed in because you could tell it wasn’t really there in the first few minutes,” Wahl said after the game. “I just went out there and tried to bring the energy by doing the things I do.”
The game started slow for both sides, combining for just 15 points on 5-24 shooting through the first 10 minutes. Wisconsin uncharacteristically turned the ball over six times over that stretch, but Green Bay wasn’t able to score a single point off a turnover in the half thanks to sturdy interior defense and rebounding by Wisconsin’s bigs.
“I didn’t like the shots we settled for at times in the first, but what we did at the defensive end ignited us offensively pretty well,” Head Coach Greg Gard said. “It helped us get into a little flow leading into the second half.”
The Phoenix shot just 15 percent from the floor in the first, and were out-rebounded 27-11 by Wisconsin.
Eventually senior forward Micah Potter got the offense moving for the Badgers late in the first with a smooth drop step layup in traffic, which triggered a 21-5 run for Wisconsin to close out the half.
“The thing that really got us going offensively was our defense,” Potter said after the game. “But we obviously had a size advantage on all our matchups tonight, so we wanted to take advantage of that and play inside out with a lot of post touches.”
Wahl ate during that stretch of play, scoring six points and adding six rebounds and an assist over the last six minutes of the half.
“For a while there it was the Tyler Wahl show, but that’s the potential he has,” Gard said. “He’s very versatile and athletic — plus the experience he gained last year has done him wonders.”
Potter was spectacular again Tuesday as well, scoring a team high 14 points to go along with eight rebounds and a couple assists. It’s the second game out of three Potter has led the Badgers in scoring, who has benefited from a full summer of practicing with fellow big man Nate Reuvers.
“We’ve been working on our play together all offseason,” Potter said. “We really want to use our height advantage with two big guys, and because we can both shoot it opens the paint up for us. It’s something we're starting to get more and more comfortable with.”
Reuvers finished the game one point behind Potter with 13, also recording a block to grow his career total to 151, inching closer to the all-time Badger record of 154 blocks set by Ethan Happ.
In the second half Wisconsin built on the last five minutes of the first and continued to light it up, shooting over 66 percent from the field and 54 percent from three-point range.
Five Badgers finished the game in double figures — Aleem Ford had 13 while Brad Davison added 10 points to go along with Potter, Wahl and Reuvers totals.
Going forward the Badgers will face off against another in-state rival, Marquette, on Friday night. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 70-62 defeat against Oklahoma State on Monday. Tip off is set for 6 p.m.