|No. 4 Wisconsin looks to take flight against Phoenix|
No. 4 Wisconsin has cruised past visiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Eastern Illinois in its first two games this season, and barring a sizable upset by youthful Green Bay on Tuesday afternoon, the Badgers figure to be in good shape at home again.
Still, that hasn't kept the Kohl Center from being a place of higher learning lately. Unable to complete its usual run of preseason practices and scrimmages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard has relished the chance to use early-season games for teaching and development.
Yes, even the routs.
"I think it's helped in some regards," Gard said. "I think we're still -- and we may be for a few more games yet -- trying to find out who we really are, especially on the offensive end. I think we're starting to create more and more of an identity."
Wisconsin (2-0) flexed its inside muscle against Arkansas-Pine Bluff during Friday's 92-58 victory. Behind strong starts from senior frontcourt veterans Micah Potter (19 points) and Nate Reuvers (14), the Badgers scored the game's first 25 points en route to a 34-point halftime lead.
"We really started to get in a good flow and understand each other's tendencies and know where to hit each other," Potter said. "That's something that with our size advantage, we'll really try to take advantage of."
Point guard D'Mitrik Trice added 15 points while facilitating the offense with precision. In 48 minutes over two games, he has eight assists, but Trice also has flashed a scoring touch.
"I think the one thing that jumps out is he's running the show like a senior should," Gard said. "When I talk to him on the sidelines, in a dead ball and free throw situations, the question I'm asking him, he's saying the right things. He's taken what's available, he hasn't tried to force it for the most part. It'll get harder, there's no doubt, as the competition ramps up. But I think he's done a really good job of leading the ship, so to speak, as a senior."
Green Bay (0-1) would appreciate a floor leader of Trice's caliber on a roster with nine true and redshirt freshmen, collectively.
Of course, youth is apparent on the Phoenix bench, as well. First-year coach Will Ryan is 42.
The son of longtime former Badgers coach Bo Ryan, Will Ryan served Wisconsin in various capacities from 2002-07, including graduate assistant, video coordinator and director of basketball.
Ryan joined his father's staff shortly after concluding his playing career at Milwaukee. Ryan played under his father at NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Platteville, helping the team to national championships in 1998 and 1999.
"It was only natural that I chose to follow in his footsteps," Ryan said. "I've embraced that. I wouldn't be where I'm at today if I didn't learn most of what I've learned over the years through him."
The Phoenix lost 99-69 at Minnesota in their season opener on Wednesday, as Green Bay fell into a 12-0 hole and never recovered.
--Field Level Media