The Badgers' inexperienced players saw plenty of action in an exhibition rout of UW-Oshkosh.
By JESSE TEMPLE FS Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. — Given the inexperience peppering Wisconsin's roster this season, there are sure to be nights when Badgers basketball coach Bo Ryan finds himself reaching for some Maalox to settle his stomach.
Wednesday night, for the most part, was not one of those nights.
No. 23 Wisconsin obliterated Division III UW-Oshkosh, 96-44, at the Kohl Center in the Badgers' lone exhibition game before beginning regular-season play. Yet, even in a laugher, Ryan discovered plenty of areas to critique while trotting out lineups of players who saw little to no playing time a year ago.
Among the young players taking center stage this season will be point guard George Marshall, who earned the start Wednesday night. Marshall, a redshirt freshman from Chicago, tallied 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting in 26 minutes, but Ryan made note of a careless turnover during the game.
"I call it a Chicago pass," Ryan said. "I used to call them Philly passes back East where it's kind of a flip. We don't make passes like that. You know why? Because he turned it over. So why make those? We never practice them. Can you see me in practice going, 'OK guys, let's work on our flip passes today in practice."
Marshall was part of a group of 10 players to play at least 13 minutes on Wednesday. Of those 10, only three averaged more than 7.7 minutes per game last season. Two players — Sam Dekker and Zak Showalter — were in high school at this time a year ago. Two more — Zach Bohannon and Marshall — took redshirt seasons. Forward Frank Kaminsky and guard Traevon Jackson played sparingly, and forward Duje Dukan played all of 13 minutes last season.
Dekker, one of the most highly touted recruits in Ryan's 12-year tenure at Wisconsin, scored five points on 2 of 5 field goal shooting in 19 minutes. Ryan saw a player who was tentative, especially on defense.
"Sam was a little soft, playing back off a little too much," Ryan said. "He's got to be able to get in the grill of guys a little more."
Both Dekker and Marshall are among the beneficiaries of key injuries to Wisconsin, which is without point guard Josh Gasser and forward Mike Bruesewitz. Gasser suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee and underwent surgery Tuesday. Breusewitz lacerated his right leg in a collision with the basketball hoop Oct. 9 and is expected to return within the next two weeks.
"The main thing is with those two guys being out, I think we're more focused on the defensive side of the ball," said Badgers forward Ryan Evans, who tallied a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. "You've always got guys that want to put the ball in the hoop. Defensively is where we made our mark last year and really since coach Ryan has been here."
Wisconsin certainly had no problem putting the ball in the hoop on Wednesday. Still, what can be gleaned from a game in which Wisconsin's typically plodding offensive style looked more like Loyola Marymount from the early 1990s? That is hard to say.
UW-Oshkosh took the floor with a starting lineup that featured four players under 6-foot-5. As a result, the Titans were destroyed 46-18 on the boards. Plus, Oshkosh is in a rebuilding mode under first-year coach Pat Juckem. Last season, the Titans finished 4-21 and lost all 16 games in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"I don't know that we're going to score 96 points a night every game," Evans said. "This is one of the smaller teams that I've played in my career."
Despite the immense disadvantages his team faced, Juckem came away impressed by what he saw from Wisconsin.
"I think they're ripe for a great season and going to be very competitive in the Big Ten as they always are," Juckem said.
Juckem's team actually began the game with a 7-0 lead and maintained an edge for more than five minutes.
Then, Wisconsin proceeded to outscore Oshkosh 35-7 over the next 10 minutes.
"I thought they did a pretty good job once they realized, No. 1, you can tell guys that you don't want to play HORSE with Division III teams," Ryan said. "You can't give guys open space. Once we had some guys become believers, then it changed."
Overall, it was a night of smiles for Wisconsin. All 14 players that dressed played at least four minutes. All of them scored at least two points. All five starters scored in double figures.
But Wednesday's game also hinted at the maddening difficulty of molding an inexperienced team in early November. The Badgers were entertaining and more up-tempo than a year ago. They also still have plenty of work to do to live up to their top-25 national ranking.
Wisconsin opens the regular season Sunday at home against Southeastern Louisiana.