The Wisconsin basketball team entered Tuesday night’s game fresh off a 86-75 win over St. Johns this past Friday at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Wisconsin welcomed back Josh Gasser to the starting lineup after missing all of last season with a knee injury. For the first time in 8 years, the Badgers opened their season away from home and in a game in which they never trailed, Gasser provided a team-high 19 points.
With the lights dimmed low and smoke machines pumping, the No.22 Wisconsin Basketball team took the court Tuesday night in style as they were introduced for their home opener at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. In one of the most highly anticipated nights in college basketball, the No.11 Florida Gators found themselves completely surrounded by a sea of red that engulfed the Kohl Center.
Florida was without 3 of their players entering the game due to suspension and off-court issues, but head coach Billy Donovan had his team clicking on all cylinders to start the game. The Gators jumped out to an early 16-4 lead after capitalizing on a Badger team that appeared to have no sense of urgency as they continually turned the ball over.
Sophomore Sam Dekker would get things turned around after hitting two consecutive 3-point shots midway through the first half. After Dekker kick-started the offense, the Badgers would ride that momentum into halftime leading the Gators 29-23.
In the final seconds of the game, Wisconsin would lean on point guard Traevon Jackson. Florida had climbed back from being down 11, to within just 3 with less than a minute to go. As time ticked off the clock, Jackson hit a clutch pull-up jumper with 8 seconds remaining to put the nail in the coffin, and seal the deal in the 59-53 victory.
Jackson has ice in his veins and he posses the clutch gene. Last season alone, he put the Badgers on his shoulders beating both Minnesota and Penn State with last second shots. Jackson also hit 2 huge clutch shots playing Iowa, that forced both overtimes in the game.
Wisconsin’s backcourt of Jackson and Ben Brust outrebounded Florida’s starting backcourt, 16 to 4. Brust and Jackson’s ability to grab rebounds consistently throughout the season will play a major factor in games, especially during conference play.
The X-factor for the Badgers will come from the play of Sam Dekker. He led the team in scoring with 16 points and possesses all of the right tools to becoming a great player in the Big Ten. Dekker has an explosive first step to the basket where he can slash in between defenders and finish near the rim. He also has the ability to shoot lights out from behind the arc, making him extremely difficult to guard. In past years, Wisconsin has lacked a player who can take over a game. Behind the coaching of Bo Ryan, Sam Dekker could very well become that player and take this Wisconsin basketball team to a whole new level of play.
It is still extremely early in the season, but Badger fans have a lot to be excited about. The team contains experience and athleticism to make a big splash in the Big Ten this year. The Badgers will face Green Bay this coming Saturday, November 16th at the Resch Center.