Badgers cruise past Northern Kentucky
MADISON, Wis. — The defense is already there. Coach Bo Ryan believes the offense eventually will get there as well.
Frank Kaminsky scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds Friday night to help No. 3 Wisconsin beat Northern Kentucky 62-31 in the season opener for both teams.
The Badgers return more than 80 percent of their scoring, rebounding and assists from a team that averaged 73.5 points a game and reached the Final Four last season. But they weren’t as sharp as they should have been offensively against a physically overmatched team in the season opener on Friday night.
Part of that was trouble from the 3-point line, where they made just 4 of 17. Last season, they averaged 21 attempts a contest, but hit almost 35 percent of them.
Still, Ryan didn’t seem too concerned, saying the Badgers just needed to hit two more 3s to be "OK." That would have given them more points on 3-pointers than attempts, one of Ryan’s goals.
"But when we’re hitting, when we’re getting those open looks, if we get those same 17 open looks, there are games we can hit seven or eight of those," Ryan said.
Defensively, though, the Badgers were sharp, matching the fewest points a Ryan team has given up during his tenure at Wisconsin.
"I think we did really well defensively tonight; holding an opponent to 31 points is pretty good," Kaminsky said. "We had a little slip up at the end. We wanted to hold them under 30. It’s a good start, and hopefully we can build on it."
Sam Dekker added 15 points for the Badgers, while Daniel Camps led the Norse with eight points.
The Norse were at a height disadvantage with just two starters listed as taller than 6-foot-4, while the Badgers only had one listed as shorter than that — 6-foot-3 Traevon Jackson. But Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold said his game plan was to pack the lane to contest layups and live with whatever 3s the Badgers made.
He called his team "tiny" compared to the Badgers and said he couldn’t simulate Wisconsin’s size and strength in practice. The Norse couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 26 percent, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range.
The Norse had a bad drought to close the first half and the beginning of the second. Down 21-15 with four minutes left in the first half, they didn’t score again until more than four minutes into the second half, when they were down 35-17.
"That’s one of the things that scared me about this team," Bezold said. "You think you’re right there in the first half and all of a sudden you look up and they’re up by 20 on you. They just methodically take you apart."