MADISON – After giving up too many easy looks near the basket and struggling from three-point range, Greg Gard’s team tightened its defense and got the ball inside and got to the free-throw line.
The result: Wisconsin opened a 19-point halftime lead, led by as many as 27 points and went on to record an 82-70 victory over UW-Oshkosh in an exhibition game Friday night at the Kohl Center.
The Titans, who reached the NCAA Division III title game last season, return four starters and are ranked No. 2 in the nation according to D3hoops.com.
“I thought we did some good things in the first half and in the first part of the second half,” Gard said.”Then as we went a little deeper in the bench, guys coming off cold, you could see we had some adjustments to make.”
BOX SCORE: UW 82, UW-Oshkosh 70
Eight of the 10 players who saw action in the first half scored for UW, which built a 47-28 lead at the break and extended the lead to 57-30 on a lay-up by Ethan Happ with 16 minutes 44 seconds remaining.
Here are five observations from the game:
Nervous moments for Trice
Guard D’Mitrik Trice, who played in only 10 games last season because of a broken right foot, limped off the floor favoring the foot with 5:38 left in the game.
He stayed on the bench for a few minutes but eventually left the floor with trainer Henry Perez-Guerra. Trice had played well and left with nine points, four rebounds, four assists and only one turnover in 27 minutes.
Trice returned to the team’s bench for the final few minutes.
“He’s fine,” Gard said of Trice. “He rolled his ankle a little bit. It was the point in time I was getting him out anyway.
“Just made that decision quicker for me.”
Share the ball
UW had 10 assists on 18 baskets in the opening half, which resulted in five players scoring at least six points. The Badgers finished with 17 assists on 30 baskets – and only eight turnovers.
Guard Brad Davison led UW in scoring with 16 points. He hit 7 of 8 free-throw attempts.
Khalil Iverson had 10 points in the opening half and finished with 13. Iverson missed his lone three-point attempt and did most of his near the rim in half-court sets or in transition. He added three rebounds and three assists but also had three early turnovers.
“I think he understands his role and he understands what he’s good at,” Gard said. “He is becoming more and more comfortable.”
Ethan Happ hit 1 of 3 three-pointers, both his free-throw attempts and contributed 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Nate Reuvers added 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Kobe King, coming off a season-ending knee injury, go more aggressive as the game progressed and finished with nine points (on 4-of-6 shooting)
“I thought Kobe got more comfortable as the game went on,” Gard said. “I think Kobe is still knocking some rust off. But I thought as the game went on he became more fluid.”
Brevin Pritzl contributed four points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks.
Free throws count
The Badgers last season hit just 69.9% of their free-throw attempts. The inability to hit critical free throws didn’t help a team that lost several close games.
UW on Friday hit 10 of 10 attempts in the opening half. The Badgers finished just 18 of 27 but seven of the misses came in the last 3:39 with the lead in double digits and several subs in the game.
“We want to get to the free-throw line as much as we can,” Davison said. “Not only is it free points for us, but it gets the other team’s top players in foul trouble.
“We try to get the ball to the rim, put pressure on the defense…We’ve all put a lot of time in on our free throws.
“We’re all very confident…Definitely, this year that will be a strength.”
UW-Oshkosh, which shot 37.1% from three-point range last season, took advantage early when UW defenders came out too hard to chase shooters off the three-point line. The Titans got some easy looks inside and hit 4 of their first 6 shots.
UW’s defense improved, however, and the Titans struggled from the perimeter and overall. They hit 3 of 15 three-pointers in the opening half and finished 8 of 29 (27.6%).
ForwardAdam Fravert hit 2 of 5 three-pointers and led the Titans in scoring with 20 points.
“I think we settled in,” Davison said. “I think there were some nerves. They were getting to the rim way too easily in the first few minutes. Coach set us straight.
“Once we settled in we finished the first half much stronger on the defensive end. “
Faulty connection from long distance
UW, which shot 33.5% from three-point range last season, missed its first seven attempts Friday. Trice finally ended the drought late in the first half.
The Badgers finished 4 of 16 from three-point range.