A new look, a lot of new faces and the same old head coach. It was a strange brew that all added up to predictable results, as the Wisconsin Badgers topped UW-River Falls 101-46 in the only exhibition game of the 2015-16 season.
Wisconsin can thank a crazy hot streak from beyond the arc in the first half, along with an impressive debut from redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, for the victory.
UW finished the first half shooting a perfect six of six from three-point range and built most of its halftime advantage of 18 points (47-29) on the strength of that shooting and holding the Falcons down from beyond the arc.
River Falls shot just 33.3 percent (4 of 12) from three-point range for 12 of its 27 points in the first half.
Happ, who led all scorers (along with Nigel Hayes) in the contest with 16 points, was super efficient from the field. He shot 77.8 percent from the field (7 of 9) and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds over the course of just 19 minutes played. It appears that Happ, along with the two returning starters, juniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, could form the trio of scorers that will scare opposing teams all season long.
The trio combined for 42 of Wisconsinâ€™s 101 points, while shooting 58.6 percent from the field. Hayes poured in 16 points despite shooting just 41.7 percent (5 of 12) from the field. Instead, he did his damage from the free throw line and beyond the arc, going 4 of 6 from the charity stripe and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
Koenig continued to show his sharp shooting and slick ball-handling skills en route to 10 points and three assists in the victory.
While Happâ€™s night was impressive offensively, he did show a propensity for committing fouls on the defensive end of the court. He finished the night with a pair of unnecessary fouls, with both of them coming from being aggressive against smaller UWRF players.
After a first half that saw the Badgers struggle to pull away early and River Falls to actually have a lead, Wisconsin took big time control of the game early in the second half and never let the Falcons feel back in the game at all.
With the competition level and skill level difference on full display, Wisconsin outscored River Falls 55-19 in the final stanza and were able to get plenty of minutes for the guys deep down the bench.
It was good news getting that deep in to the bench though, as Happâ€™s fellow freshman (albeit of the true freshman variety) got in to the act and impressed. Forward Charlie Thomas physically looked the part and showcased a surprisingly deft touch on the offensive end of the court as well. He finished the game with 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds as well as a steal.
Khalil Iverson showcased plenty of his athletic talent, something Wisconsin is going to need in spades this season. He collected just four points, but was all over the place with three assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots in his 16 minutes of action.
In total, the Badgers had six players reach double figures and got every player on the roster (who was eligible) in to the game. Additionally no one got hurt in the contest, all points that make Wednesday night more than just a victory in a game that wonâ€™t count on anyoneâ€™s actual record in 2015-16.
Perhaps no player surprised more than Riley Dearring though, as he joined the double-digit scoring party with 10 points in just 16 minutes of action. He was 3 of 4 from the field, including 2 of 3 from deep en route to surprising a lot of people.
While all of this equals the knowledge of it being just an exhibition game, it also served to answer many questions about just which players were actually ready to contribute. Few of the freshman looked out of place on the court, and most looked confident enough to not let a bigger moment down the road take them out of their element.
Bo Ryanâ€™s Badgers dominated like they shouldâ€™ve, and thatâ€™s something few of his teams in transition ever did. Look for this to be a nice building block heading in to the season opener against Western Illinois on Nov. 13 at the Kohl Center.