MADISON, Wis. -- Senior forward Nigel Hayes and No. 9 Wisconsin routed Central Arkansas in the season-opening game for both teams. The Badgers, featuring four seniors and a junior in their starting lineup, would not let the home opener resemble last season's stunner, when Western Illinois edged then-ranked No. 17 Wisconsin 69-67. Senior guard Bronson Koenig scored a game-high 16 points to pace Wisconsin in its 79-47 win against Central Arkansas on Friday night at the Kohl Center. Hayes said last year's team lacked experience in the early juncture of the season. "That's one thing you can't give someone is experience," Hayes said. "We got all that now and you see that we have much more solid, much more ready group of guys to go out and play." Hayes scored 14 points and dished five assists in the win. He scored eight points during an 11-3 Badgers run to start the second half, including consecutive 3-point baskets that extended Wisconsin's lead to 45-25 with 15:34 to go. Central Arkansas coach Russ Pennell told the Bears that Hayes would be a handful and said they likely would see the 6-foot-8 standout competing in the NBA next season. "The thing I like about Nigel is: He's so versatile," Pennell said. "He can hit the 3, he can rebound the ball, he's a good passer and plays at a great pace. He's an experienced guy who's played big-time minutes in big-time games." Koenig drained 4-of-10 buckets from 3-point range for the Badgers, who shot 38 percent (11-of-29) overall from beyond the arc in the victory. Wisconsin senior G Zak Showalter scored 10 points and finished 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. The Badgers shot 47 percent (25 of 53) overall from the field. Central Arkansas senior G Derreck Brooks scored a game-high 12 points and had eight rebounds for the Bears, who shot 2-of-13 from the field to start the game. Bears junior G Jordan Howard added 10 points for the Bears, who shot 29 percent (15 of 52) overall from the field. Young players made early contributions as the Badgers shrugged off a slow start. Wisconsin freshman G D'Mitrik Trice drilled consecutive 3-point buckets to extend the Badgers' lead to 30-17 with 4:28 left in the first half. Trice, who came off the bench, added six points in six minutes during the half. Koenig scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting in the first half to push the Badgers to a 34-22 lead. Wisconsin hadn't prepared for much zone defense heading into the game against Central Arkansas, and the Bears' match-up zone didn't disrupt the Badgers rhythm on offense. The Badgers shot 47 percent (25 of 53) overall from the field. "There are a lot of teams when we play that zone that they get out of character and shoot more 3s than they want to, and that's a little bit of our philosophy," Pennell said. "The last part of defense is rebounding and we did a poor job of that." Wisconsin outrebounded Central Arkansas 44-29. The Badgers also got the job done on defense as the Bears stumbled to a 28 percent (15 of 53) field-goal shooting percentage. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard got the opportunity to turn to the bench in the easy victory. The Badgers got 31 points from reserves, led by Trice's eight points. "We were not in sync, specifically with different lineups on the floor in trying to develop a bench that will, hopefully, be a strength of ours," Gard said of the opener. "I think it is already. I thought we got better as the game went on." Junior F Ethan Happ had the most consistent performance for Wisconsin. Happ, a starter, scored eight points, grabbed nine rebounds, had four assists, two steals and one block. NOTES: Before Friday's game, Wisconsin freshman F Aleem Ford announced his decision to redshirt this season. Ford, a 6-foot-8 small forward, averaged 13.9 points per game at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., prior to joining the Badgers. ... Friday's game against Wisconsin and Central Arkansas was the first meeting between the teams. ... Badger senior F Nigel Hayes and junior G Jordan Hill took one step back behind their teammates during the National Anthem. Hayes and Hill were making a statement regarding the way university officials have handled a situation in which two people wore offensive costumes at Camp Randall Stadium on Oct. 28 during a Wisconsin football game against Nebraska.
Koenig carries No. 9 Wisconsin past Central Arkansas
The Sports Xchange | Nov 11