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Wisconsin Badgers blow past in-state rival UW-Milwaukee Panthers in Micah Potter's debut
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Wisconsin Badgers blow past in-state rival UW-Milwaukee Panthers in Micah Potter's debut

Micah Potter - UW vs. UW-Milwaukee

Wisconsin forward Micah Potter is defended by UW-Milwaukee forward Wil Sessoms in the first half of the Badgers' 83-64 win over the Panthers on Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison. Potter had 12 points and five rebounds in his Badgers debut.

After playing what he felt like was his worst game ever, D’Mitrik Trice got on the phone with his father for their usual debriefing.

The junior point guard on the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has gotten off to a slow start in 2019-20 and said Saturday that Travis Trice Sr., a former point guard himself at Butler and Purdue, “has been on my back this whole season.” That was certainly the case after a poor performance last week at Rutgers, which felt like rock bottom to UW’s leading returning scorer from last season.

“My family is not much of a cussing family, so it’s nicer words than some families and some dads might have,” Trice said.

But Trice took his father’s message to heart and bounced back in a big way, scoring a career-high 31 points in the Badgers’ 83-64 win over UW-Milwaukee at the Kohl Center.

Trice and junior forward Nate Reuvers apparently didn’t get the memo that Micah Potter was supposed to be the headliner in UW’s first game after semester exams. The two combined for 53 points, with Reuvers finishing with 22 to match his career high.

Potter, meanwhile, added 12 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes while making his debut with the Badgers. After sitting out the entire 2018-19 campaign and the first 10 games this season, Potter was a bit jittery to start in his first real game since playing for Ohio State in the 2018 NCAA tournament.

But the junior forward settled in and helped take some of the pressure off Reuvers.

Still, it was Trice who stole the show as the Badgers (6-5) finished off a sweep of their three in-state opponents. He went 11 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range, to top his previous career best of 25 points set against Oklahoma last season.

“It just feels good to have the ball go through,” Trice said.

Trice, who hadn’t scored more than 11 points in a game this season, came into the game shooting 34.6 percent overall and 27.7 percent from 3-point range. He only attempted two shots at Rutgers and finished with more turnovers (three) than points (two) in UW’s 72-65 loss to the Scarlet Knights on Dec. 11.

Backup point guard Trevor Anderson played more than Trice in that game at Rutgers, but UW coach Greg Gard stuck with his usual starting lineup. Trice rewarded him by scoring eight of the Badgers’ first nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

“The one thing I learned a long time ago is you don’t pull the rug out from under a player when they have a bad game or go through a rough stretch,” Gard said. “My mentor (Bo Ryan) was very stern in the belief that you stick with them because when they’re good players, they'll find their way to work through it.

“For him, it was a matter of playing solid and staying within himself. Getting the ball to go down obviously helps but he did a lot of other things, too.”

Darius Roy scored 25 points to lead the Panthers (5-7), who cooled off after a hot-shooting first half.

The Panthers, who came in shooting 40.4 percent overall and 32.2 percent from 3-point range, were within two at the half after shooting 55.2 percent and going 7 of 11 from beyond the arc. But UW pulled away in the second half, in part because the Panthers went 6 of 23 (26.1 percent) from the field.

“They were too comfortable in the first half,” Gard said, “but we disrupted them a little bit more in the second.”

Trice scored nine points during an 18-3 run after halftime that helped the Badgers break open a close game.

Afterward, he said his father has been harping on doing the little things well. Trice had worked hard during the offseason on expanding his offensive game, and he finally showed a little bit of everything on Saturday: In addition to his five 3-pointers, he scored four times on drives to the basket and drained a pair of pull-up jumpers from the mid-range area.

“It just feels good to come out and have a game like this before Christmas,” Trice said.

Honoring Moore

The Panthers wore shirts during pregame drills honoring UW assistant coach Howard Moore and his family. Moore is on medical leave after being involved in an accident in May that killed his wife Jennifer and daughter Jaidyn.

UW-Milwaukee coach Pat Baldwin and Moore were assistants on the same staff at Loyola University Chicago in 2004-05. Before the starting lineups were announced, the Panthers players and staff presented the Badgers with wristbands that said, “Do Moore. Be Moore. 4 Moore.”

“Just wanted to do something that just makes everybody take notice and love who you have in front of you and love your family because you never know,” Baldwin said.

Gard said: “I thought it was a first-class gesture on Pat and his program’s part.”

Hedstrom out

Redshirt freshman center Joe Hedstrom will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Hedstrom appeared in six games this season. He had two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

Photos: Wisconsin Badgers pull away from UW-Milwaukee Panthers in second half

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