UW vs. UWM

UW-Milwaukee's August Haas (13) shoots against Wisconsin's Nate Reuvers (35) during the first half on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. 

Greg Gard believes his team learned some things during a three-game losing streak.

So did the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball coach, who came to the conclusion that it was time to add another body to his frontcourt.

Gard made another significant move Friday night during the Badgers’ 71-49 victory over UW-Milwaukee at the Kohl Center, playing Nate Reuvers for the first time this season.

The decision of whether or not Reuvers would redshirt this season was answered early in the game when the highly regarded freshman forward from Minnesota was the first frontcourt player off the bench for Gard.

One game after mixing up his starting lineup, inserting freshman guard Brad Davison and redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford, Gard did some more tinkering by adding Reuvers to the mix.

“He just brings a dimension that we really need,” Gard said. “He can help this team.”

Davison went 5 of 6 from 3-point range and scored 19 points to lead four UW players in double figures. Junior center Ethan Happ added 14 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore guards Brevin Pritzl and D’Mitrik Trice added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the Badgers (3-3).

Reuvers didn’t score, missing all six of his shot attempts, but he had six rebounds and two assists.

“They thought in an ideal world it would be good for me to redshirt, but they thought I could help contribute to this team this year,” Reuvers said of the coaching staff. “I thought that I’m ready to play and step into a role. So that’s why I’m playing.”

A redshirt season would have allowed Reuvers to add some weight to his 6-foot-10 frame, but it’s become clear to Gard that the Badgers need him this season. Reuvers played 14 minutes against the Panthers, exactly twice as much as Andy Van Vliet, Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas combined.

“I wasn’t going to go into it just dipping the toe in the water of, ‘Well, I might get you a couple minutes here or there,’ ” Gard said. “I have to commit to it and just watching his progression and growth, he’s earned it.”

The “4” spot has been a weak spot for UW this season, but Ford was solid while starting at home for the first time. He didn’t score and attempted only one shot against Milwaukee, but Ford grabbed seven rebounds and contributed a team-high five assists in 21 minutes.

“I told him before the game actually that he’s got to be a junkyard dog,” Happ said. “We’ve had (Zak Showalter) play that role before, where he’s not really scoring a bunch but he’s mixing it up all the time. I’m proud of (Ford).”

Sophomore forward Bryce Nze led the Panthers (4-2) with 10 points. Milwaukee got outrebounded 37-25 and gave up 12 offensive rebounds that the Badgers converted into 19 second-chance points.

“Wisconsin was a way better team, especially on the glass, than we were,” Milwaukee first-year coach Pat Baldwin said. “A lot tougher than we were and certainly much more aggressive on the offensive end, so that’s the story of the game.”

Another story was the Badgers’ response after halftime. UW had been slow out of the gates in losses to Baylor and UCLA at the Hall of Fame Classic earlier this week, so Gard was pleased when the Badgers opened the second half against Milwaukee with a 16-4 run to break open a close game.

“We had to go through that growing process and figure some things out,” Gard said. “Most of the time, your best growth is happening from adversity and things not going your way and having to figure out a better way to do things and improve.”

The Badgers, who shot 28.4 percent from 3-point range (19 of 67) during a three-game losing skid that began with a home defeat against Xavier last week, went 10 of 19 against Milwaukee.

Davison, Trice and freshman wing Kobe King combined to go 9 of 10 from 3-point range. Davison hit four 3s after halftime and helped UW shoot a blistering 72.7 percent (8 of 11) from beyond the arc in the second half.

“I think it was huge for all of us, just to see the shots go in,” Davison said. “I think it really kind of carried over to our defense in the second half.”

At one point early in the second half, when the game was still in doubt, Gard had a lineup that included one sophomore (Pritzl) and four freshmen.

Of course, one of those rookies was Davison, who is playing beyond his years. He’s managed to increase his scoring total in every game, going from five to eight to 12 to 13 to 14 to 19.

“I love Brad,” said Baldwin, who tried to recruit Davison while he was an assistant coach at Northwestern. “He was one of my favorite players that I had an opportunity to have a relationship with from a recruiting standpoint. He’s a great player, you’d love to have him on your team, you hate to play against him because he plays with great intensity. He’s a winner.”

Bucky!

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