The Wisconsin Badgers started off the 2011-12 basketball season with an exhibition win over UW-Stevens Point 80-54 Saturday night at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin raced out to a 14-2 lead as it never trailed and shot 49 percent for the game and 50 percent from behind the 3-point line en route to the victory.
All 16 players played for the Badgers and 10 of them registered points in the contest. Junior forward Ryan Evans had a productive game, leading the Badgers in points with 16 on 7-10 shooting, including 1-1 from behind the 3-point line. He also had five rebounds, three blocks and two steals, tying for the team lead in the latter two categories.
"I think just being in the gym with Jordan Taylor has helped us a lot," Evans said. "We've got an All-American. He's helped us along quite a bit. We've been in the gym consistently since we got here. It's nothing too new. We've known we could do this kind of stuff but, with Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil leaving, we know we need to step up a little more.”
Carrying the momentum gained during the Red/White scrimmage, sophomore guard Ben Brust scored 14 on 6-12 shooting, including making both of his 3-point shots. He also led the Badgers in rebounding with six rebounds and added an assist and steal.
Junior forward Jared Berggren had a nice debut as a starter, scoring 12 points on 5-9 shooting and adding three blocks and two steals on the under-manned Pointers. Sophomore guard Josh Gasser also scored in double digits, scoring 10 on 3-6 shooting with two of his makes being from behind the 3-point line. He also added four rebounds and two steals.
"All off-season you work on your strength, you work on your shooting, everything we've done," Berggren said. "Then, in the first few weeks in practice here, trying to apply everything the coaches tells us and continue to grow as a player, be aggressive, and contribute any way you can."
Preseason All-American senior guard Jordan Taylor scored eight points and added a game-high seven assists as well as two steals. Junior forward Mike Bruesewitz scored seven points and was second on the team with three assists.
"Jordan wasn't looking to do anything tonight other than run the show," Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan said. "The shots were there, and that was a great job of orchestrating the offense. You didn't see him force, and you didn't see him do anything other than get his teammates good shots.
Freshmen Traevon Jackson and Jarrod Uthoff both got their feet wet as they both scored five points, including both hitting their only shot from behind the 3-point line. George Marshall also scored two points in his debut.
For UW-Stevens Point, senior forward Dan Tillema scored a game-high 24 points on 8-17 shooting while senior center Jordan Brezinski was the only other Pointer in double figures, scoring 11 points as well as having four assists and a game-high seven rebounds.
Both teams were on fire to start, each shooting at least 60 percent in the first half, but Wisconsin shot nine more times and took a 45-33 lead into the half. Both teams cooled down considerably in the second half as the Badgers shot 40 percent and the Pointers shot just 32 percent.
The Pointers struggled from deep, only making three 3-pointers in 19 attempts. Wisconsin forced 18 turnovers and scored 24 points off those turnovers. Wisconsin, per usual, took care of the ball and only had five turnovers.
"We're Wisconsin," Ryan said. "We don't accept anything else."
Wisconsin officially opens its season next Saturday at noon when the Badgers welcome the Kennesaw State Owls to the Kohl Center.