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MADISON – In the moments following the Red team’s 67-65 win over the White team in the annual preseason scrimmage, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan pointed to the Red team’s experience as being one of the deciding factors in the outcome.
While it was true that the Red squad had both seniors, including last year’s leading scorer Ben Brust, along with veteran Josh Gasser and 29-game starter Traevon Jackson on the floor, it was the work of sophomore guard George Marshall that played a big difference.
Marshall finished with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He also finished with three assists and one turnover.
“George made some good shots, some tough shots, and that’s what he can do,” said Ryan.
After the injury to Gasser prior to the start of last season, Marshall was given the reins at point guard, becoming just the 20th freshman in school history to start the season opener. That lasted only six games, as Marshall struggled with the speed of the game and his confidence.
That’s a thing of the past, according to Marshall, who called last year a “big learning experience.”
“Last year, the first time being out there, kind of hesitation, not doing everything I could do,” said Marshall. “This year I plan on being a lot more aggressive, really making plays for myself or plays for others.”
While shy about shooting the basketball last season (he averaged only 3.9 shots in his 35 games), Marshall was stingy with the basketball – turning the ball over only five times in 256 minutes of Big Ten play.
Averaging 15.8 minutes per game and shooting 36.8 percent from three-point range, Marshall’s abilities flashed when he scored a career-high 20 points at Iowa in only 15 minutes on the court.
Always having the ability to play up-tempo because of his quickness, Marshall worked throughout the summer to be tougher on defense and a more well-rounded scorer, especially since 68.8 percent of his shots last year were 3-point attempts.
“This year I am looking forward to mixing it up, going to the basket,” said Marshall, “But at the same time keeping my 3-point shot consistent.”
The Red team also got a team-high 16 points from Brust and 11 points from Gasser, who received a nice ovation in his first on-court appearance at the Kohl Center since March 4, 2012.
“I’m glad it finally came and it was fun,” said Gasser, who will wear a knee brace all season. “My leg is healthy and it’s ready to go.”
The White team, which included four freshmen, was led by Sam Dekker’s game-high 18 points and 16 points from Frank Kaminksy. The White team out-rebounded the Red team, 26-24, but led the Red team shoot 55.1 percent (27-for-39) from the floor.
Nigel Hayes led all freshmen with seven points on 3-for-3 shooting.
“They weren’t bashful,” Ryan said of the freshmen. “I think that’s kind of the great way to introduce these guys to the Kohl Center in a game-like situation.”
Ryan said he hasn’t settled on a rotation with the season opener less than two weeks away, which means Marshall and the rest of the six guards vying for a legitimate shot in the rotation continue to battle for time.
“Practices are competitive,” said Marshall. “There’s a lot of depth at guard, and that’s never a bad thing playing in a conference like the Big Ten where you play a lot of tough opponents. Being deep at the guard spot is a positive for us.”