Badgers' high scoring, wide open offense comes up big again
NOV 21, 2013 9:34p ET
There were those three difficult games to open the season, two against BCS-level opponents and one on the road against a pesky in-state foe. Then an unexpectedly thrilling and emotional home victory Tuesday night against North Dakota in which Badgers center Frank Kaminsky broke the single-game scoring record with 43 points.
Certainly, one poor performance in the bunch Thursday would have been understandable. Instead, the Badgers kept on rolling and showed once again why they're primed to be one of the most entertaining Wisconsin teams in years.
No. 12 Wisconsin soundly defeated Bowling Green 88-64 on Thursday night in the Kohl Center, doing it the new-school way Badgers fans are unaccustomed to seeing -- with a sizzling scoring surge.
Six players scored in double figures, marking the first time Wisconsin achieved that feat since a Dec. 28, 1995 game against Eastern Illinois. Until Tuesday's 103-85 victory against North Dakota, it also marked the last game the Badgers scored 100 points.
Ben Brust paced Wisconsin with 19 points, and he was joined by teammates Sam Dekker (14), Kaminsky (14), Traevon Jackson (13), Josh Gasser (11) and Bronson Koenig (10). And the fact so many players are capable of scoring consistently provides another example of why this year's team is unique.
"They look at pregame scouting reports and they see six guys in double figures here, five the first game," Dekker said of opposing teams. "We have almost a different leading scorer every night, you kind of have to approach this team as who are we going to take away today and who are we going to focus on? But there's always going to be two, three, four other guys that are going to be able to hit a big shot or make a play.
"We have four or five guys that any night could easily lead our team in scoring, lead multiple teams in scoring. It's probably tough to scout against us."
Wisconsin has never averaged more than 71.1 points per game in the previous 12 seasons under coach Bo Ryan. But through five games, the Badgers are averaging 81.0 points per game. UW came in averaging 77 points and hit its average with 7:34 remaining in the game on a Jackson free throw. The Badgers also scored 80 points in consecutive contests for the first time in 31 games.
Ryan said his team is demonstrating the offensive balance and reliability he expected. During the Badgers' five-game Canadian exhibition tour in August, the team averaged 96.2 points per game, although the rules were much different and included only a 24-second shot clock.
"It's what we've seen," Ryan said. "We've seen it in practice, we saw it in Canada. When we chart our practices and look at them, if you stop one guy, are we going to have that kind of team? I don’t think that’s the case. So, the offensive efficiency, those numbers are speaking for themselves to this point."
Even before the start, Thursday's game figured to be of the higher scoring variety -- which is atypically playing right into Wisconsin's hands. Bowling Green entered the game averaging 103.0 possessions per game, which ranked No. 3 in the country. Wisconsin, meanwhile, was averaging 68.0 possessions per game, which served as the highest mark under Ryan.
"We've always tried to push the ball," Ryan said. "And if you don’t have it, then you run the half-court offense. It's never changed. And most of the guys that have seen my teams play from the '80s on, Platteville, Milwaukee and here, they know that if we can get something in transition, we're going to take it. And if not, then you've got to guard because we're going to try to get a really good shot. Somebody told me a long time ago that’s how you're supposed to play the game."
What has made this year's Wisconsin team especially maddening to defend is its ability to stretch the floor with 3-pointers. Wisconsin began the night ranked 14th in the country in 3-point field goal accuracy (45.7 percent), and the Badgers performed even better Thursday. They drilled 12 of 20 attempts, with five players hitting at least one.
"It's just good to have unselfish guys," Gasser said. "Everyone who contributes brings something different I think, which is a good thing."
Bowling Green trailed just 23-22 at the 8:23 mark of the first half until Wisconsin closed the half on a 21-6 run. During that time, Jackson, Brust (twice) and reserve Duje Dukan all buried 3-point baskets to allow the Badgers to pull away.
On the season, four of Wisconsin's starters are averaging double figures in scoring, and Gasser is just behind at 9.8 points per game.
"Wisconsin, they're just a tough cover," Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. "They are a tough, tough cover because they spread you out, they hit 3s, they play off the dribble. They post every position. Then you've got to worry about a 7 footer (Kaminsky) that can shoot 3s, so they spread you out. It's a team you've got to guard, and it's not easy."
The Badgers improved to 5-0 for the third time under Ryan. UW's best start with Ryan in charge was a 6-0 mark to begin the 2011-12 season, and it can match that with a victory Saturday night against Oral Roberts. A win also would almost assuredly boost UW into the top 10 in the Associated Press top 25 poll because No. 11 Memphis and No. 10 VCU have already lost this week.
Wisconsin has spent just one week in the AP top 10 over the past five seasons. But if this year's unit is proving anything, it's that when it comes to past teams in recent memory, there really is no comparison.
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter