One of the themes that emerged from the offseason for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team was the prospect of a balanced scoring attack.
That symmetry was on full display Friday night at the Kohl Center, where all five starters reached double figures in the Badgers’ 82-53 exhibition victory over UW-La Crosse.
Nate Reuvers led the way with 15 points for UW, which also got 14 points from Kobe King, 13 from Brad Davison, 12 from Aleem Ford and 10 from D’Mitrik Trice.
“I like that, it keeps the defense honest,” Reuvers said. “I really like this team.”
The Badgers, debuting the more well-rounded offense in a post-Ethan Happ world, shot 52 percent from the field. Their offensive output would have been even better had they not gone a dreadful 50 percent (13 of 26) from the free throw line.
UW coach Greg Gard and his players didn’t seem too concerned about all the misfires from the stripe, especially considering the Badgers had gone 21 of 26 from that spot in a closed scrimmage against Iowa State last weekend. King blamed the struggles Friday on the fact the Badgers haven’t gotten up many shots in the Kohl Center during the preseason because the ice has been down most of the time.
Gard, meanwhile, saw a silver lining: 52 free throw attempts over two dress rehearsals before the season officially gets underway next week.
“The good part is that we’re getting there,” Gard said. “That’s step one.”
Davison had a scare early in the second half when he appeared to injure his left hand on a drive to the basket. After completing the three-point play with 17 minutes, 32 seconds remaining, Davison left the game and went to the training room to get examined by Dr. John Orwin.
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A few minutes later, Davison returned to the court, got his fingers taped up and checked back in the game with 13:56 left. He made a jumper to join the other four starters in double figures, then drained a 3-pointer the next trip down the court.
“It could be anybody’s night, but also we’ve got guys that can kind of create and hit shots,” King said. “It’s nice to have that kind of depth, it doesn’t really put a lot of pressure on one person. I think that will help us make a deep run.”
Building some momentum early in the season would be easier for UW if it had the services of junior forward Micah Potter, who had another setback this week in his bid to be eligible at the start of the season.
Potter, who enrolled at UW last December after transferring from Ohio State and didn’t play at all in 2018-19, had asked the NCAA to reconsider its decision to deny waiver a filed on his behalf by UW. Gard said the NCAA’s Committee for Legislative Review (CLR) once again ruled against Potter, who as of now won’t be eligible until the first semester ends in late December.
On Friday, according to Gard, UW formally requested a telephonic hearing with the CLR. That hearing would include Potter, his attorney, UW officials and the seven-member committee. Gard said it’s the CLR chairperson’s decision whether or not to grant Potter a hearing; if the answer is yes, the committee has 10 days to convene for the telephonic hearing.
“We really feel strongly that Micah should have an opportunity to state his case verbally to the committee,” Gard said.
Ethan Anderson scored 12 points and Zac Haese had 10 for the Eagles, who shot 29 percent from the field. UW-La Crosse coach Kent Dernbach said the Badgers were difficult to defend because of their ability to produce from all five positions.
“That’s what good teams are able to do, where they’re able to put five scorers out on the court like that,” Dernbach said. “For us, we kind of lost track a little bit. We weren’t able to take away the inside game and then when we finally collapsed in, then they kicked it out and they knocked in a couple 3s. At some point we have to give up one thing or the other, right?”
That’s the hope for the Badgers, who, as Gard put it, will “jump right into deep water” when they open the season Tuesday against No. 20 Saint Mary’s at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“I think we’re ready,” King said.