It didn’t take Frank Kaminsky’s teammates on the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team long to figure out the junior center was in the midst of a special performance Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.
By the time it was over, Kaminsky had scored a school-record 43 points to lead the No. 12 Badgers to a 103-85 non-conference victory over North Dakota.
Kaminsky, who entered the night averaging 8.7 points per game, was 16 of 19 from the field, including 6 of 6 from 3-point range and 5 of 6 from the free throw line to put his name in the record books. He topped the previous single-game UW record for points (42) set by Ken Barnes (vs. Indiana on March 8, 1965) and Michael Finley (vs. Eastern Michigan on Dec. 10, 1994).
“I can’t really describe it,” said Kaminsky, whose previous career high for points was 19. “It’s an awesome feeling. Looking back on the game now and being able to see the stats and everything, it just was an awesome game.”
Sophomore forward Sam Dekker scored 19 points for the Badgers (4-0), who surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time since scoring 105 against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 28, 1995.
UW junior guard Traevon Jackson, who had 14 points and eight assists, said he could tell Kaminsky was in the zone most players can only dream about entering.
“I was on the wing and I was open for a pass and Frank shot it because he was open, too. It was a good shot,” Jackson said. “I looked at him and said, ‘One more, one more.’ He said, ‘No, I’m feeling it.’
“Then he came down — and he never says this — but he came down and he said, ‘Hey, run this play for me.’ ”
Kaminsky was one point shy of tying the school record when UW coach Bo Ryan pulled him out of the game with 2 minutes, 3 seconds remaining. The crowd booed, then gave Kaminsky as standing ovation as he left the floor.
But Kaminsky’s teammates on the bench, aware he was on the cusp of a historic performance, lobbied Ryan to put him back in the game. So Ryan put him back in with 1:27 left, and 17 seconds later the 7-footer scored inside over 6-3 North Dakota guard Shane Benton to break the record.
Ryan said he scored 43 points in a game during his senior year at Wilkes (Pa.) College. He remembers his father — the late Butch Ryan — giving Wilkes coach Ron Rainey grief for years about taking Bo out of the game when he was within reach of a scoring record.
Bo Ryan said he had that on his mind when he decided to put Kaminsky back in the game.
“So one more possession, that’s all I said, and if the team didn’t get him the ball, that was it.” Ryan said. “And guess what? They got him the ball.
“And it does come back from being in that position once. And giving a guy a chance to do something that was pretty special. He earned an opportunity.”
UW shot 59.3 percent from the field, including 60 percent from 3-point range (12 of 20). North Dakota couldn’t afford to double-team Kaminsky and run the risk of leaving the Badgers’ perimeter shooters open.
It also helped that Kaminsky’s teammates were finding him. He had 21 points by halftime and scored 19 — matching his career-high set last season at Illinois — in the opening 11:43 of the game.
“If they can continue to establish Kaminsky, that’s going to be the guy I feel that’s going to get them over the top and be able to establish themselves deep into the season,” North Dakota coach Brian Jones said. “There’s no question he’s talented inside and out. That’s a tough matchup, with his length and his ability to drive the ball, too. At 7-foot, (he’s) shot-faking guys and still being able to straight-line drive and then score in the post.”
Kaminsky’s record night overshadowed a brilliant performance by North Dakota senior guard Troy Huff, who scored 37 points.
Huff, a former Brookfield Academy standout, put on a show on the same campus where his mother was a star for the UW women’s basketball program. Theresa Huff, who played for the Badgers from 1979-83 and is the school’s all-time leading rebounder and fifth-leading scorer, sat behind the North Dakota bench.
The wiry Huff — he’s 6-foot-5, 174 pounds — was 15 of 22 from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. He began the game on the bench, along with the rest of North Dakota’s usual starters, because Jones wasn’t happy with their performance in practice leading up to Tuesday’s game.
“I’m proud of him because he showed the maturity not to allow them to bother him in his home state,” Jones said of benching Huff. “It could have gone either way.
“Not starting, he could have pouted and not performed. But again, that shows his maturity.”
Still, on this night, Huff’s big night took a back seat to Kaminsky’s. Afterward, Kaminsky said the game ranked in his top five but refused to label it No. 1.
“That’s to come,” Kaminsky said, “when we win the Big Ten championship this year.”