MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said the Badgers started Tuesday’s game exactly the way Rider wanted them to: tentative.
But their defense gave them time to get things figured out, and then the barrage again.
The Badgers knocked down 13 3-pointers, two off their season high, and Nate Reuvers was dominant in the post -- particularly in the second half -- as Wisconsin shook off a slow start to beat Rider 65-37.
“We did exactly what you’d want a team to do against that” defense, Gard said, adding the Badgers were standing around and failing to move the ball.
The teams combined to shoot 2 for 22 over the first seven minutes of the game. While Wisconsin (8-5) eventually found its shooting touch, Rider (7-4) did not.
The Broncs came into the game shooting 44% overall, including 32% from 3-point range.
But their 11 first-half points were a season low both for the Broncs and a Wisconsin opponent. Rider shot 16.7% from the floor in the first half and made just five field goals while going 0 for 7 from behind the arc. All were also season lows for a Wisconsin opponent.
Rider coach Kevin Baggett credited Wisconsin’s defense with harassing his shooters all night. But it wasn’t just the contested shots that weren’t falling. With less than 8 minutes to go, Tyrel Bladen executed a pick-and-roll that got him an open look at the rim that he missed. He grabbed the putback without much resistance but missed again from point-blank range.
“I thought we rushed shots when we had opportunities to make shots,” Baggett said. “I thought they were all sped up and rushed rather than taking their time.”
Several Badgers had flourishes from behind the 3-point line. Brevin Pritzl hit all 3 of his while the Badgers were struggling to a 9-7 lead midway through the first half. Brad Davison then knocked down three straight to open the second half as Aleem Ford added a fourth, giving he Badgers more points in three minutes than Rider had in the first 20. That pushed Wisconsin’s lead to 34-16 as the game quickly got out of hand.
Ford finished with 14 points, while Pritzl and Davison had 11 apiece.
Reuvers, who led the Badgers with 15, credited Pritzl with keeping the offense afloat until the rest of the Badgers could figure things out.
“He just gave us a good spark when everything was just bad,” Reuvers said.
DEFENSE LOCKED IN
The Badgers wrapped up their non-conference schedule with back-to-back dominant performances defensively. Wisconsin’s 68-48 win at Tennessee had been the Badgers’ season low for both points in a game as well as the first half (24) prior to Tuesday. Wisconsin is now giving up 60.5 points a game, and Pritzl said the Badgers are in a great place defensively heading into the meat of their conference schedule. “Offensively we’ve been a work in progress through the season,” he said. “But we’re starting to click and figure out what each other’s strengths are.”
Rider: It’s a tough task for any Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team to take on the Badgers, who are now 9-1 all-time against the MAAC. Shooting as poorly as Rider did to start the game snuffed out any chances of an upset.
Wisconsin: Rider was a final nonconference tuneup for the Badgers before Big Ten play kicks in full-time. Life is going to get a lot tougher starting Friday with a trip to No. 5 Ohio State.
Rider: Hosts Siena on Sunday.
Wisconsin: Travels to Ohio State on Friday.
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