MADISON - Size does matter — the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team showed that in its 79-32 win over Savannah State Thursday.
After getting into some early trouble in the season opener versus Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne on Sunday, Wisconsin came out Thursday and blew Savannah State out of the water by going on a 17-0 run to start the game.
Size was the reason why.
The Badgers big men — Greg Stiemsma and Brian Butch — established themselves early, allowing Wisconsin to dump the ball into the post for the entire game and expect either an easy bucket or a foul.
“That’s our first goal—to score inside,” said Stiemsma, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. “And if we can get fouls on them early to shoot some free throws later, those are some definite points that we need to take advantage of.”
But Wisconsin’s big men didn’t just overpower Savannah State with their size; they also outplayed them in other ways.
With four assists, Stiemsma was able to create some buckets for his teammates by stepping out to the wing and passing the ball.
“Especially early, our passing from the big’s was very crisp,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “I just thought we were unselfish moving the ball.
“I thought that was very good team play.”
The ball movement from the big men opened up the offense, allowing for other Wisconsin players to drive the lane and score, such as sophomore guard Trevon Hughes who scored a game-high 21 points.
Hughes, who is in his first season as the starting point guard, led Wisconsin in scoring for the second straight game. However, he was beating himself up for his 1-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio after the game.
“That’s not my game, I’m supposed to get my teammates involved,” Hughes said. “I didn’t do that tonight and I feel bad.”
But teammate Joe Krabbenhoft added: “I’ll take that stat line from him any night.”
After jumping out to the early 17-0 lead, Wisconsin was able to cruise for the rest of the game. Every team member saw playing time—except for walk-on guard Wquinton Smith, who just joined the team as a walk-on this week. So given the large lead, maybe most impressive in the Badgers’ win was the free-throw shooting.
Wisconsin shot 28-of-35 from the line, taking advantage of some early foul trouble by Savannah State in the first half and knocking down the free shots given in the second half.
For the season, the Badgers are shooting 80 percent from the line and they believe that bodes well for their success further down the schedule.
“We expect to get to the free-throw line as many times as we did tonight,” Krabbenhoft said. “We just have to step up and knock them down.”
Wisconsin’s win over Savannah State was the second game of the America Youth Classic hosted at the Kohl Center. In the opening game Thursday, Colorado beat Florida A&M 83-59. Wisconsin plays Florida A&M Friday and Colorado on Saturday.