MADISON, Wis. (AP) Vitto Brown hadn’t even broken a sweat when Wisconsin coach Greg Gard pulled the forward and fellow starter Ethan Happ just more than a minute into Thursday night’s game with Chicago State.
But the move sent a message.
Brown ending up scoring 12 points to lead No. 9 Wisconsin as the Badgers shook off some uneven play from their starters to beat the Cougars 69-51.
“It’s always important to send a message with your leaders like us because they know if we mess up and can be taken out, the other guys will be held to the same standard,” Brown said.
Gard said he figured some of his starters would be sluggish two days after a 79-67 loss to No. 22 Creighton. But after seeing a couple of careless turnovers to start the game and a quick 8-0 deficit, he had enough.
Gard’s move paid off. Khalil Iverson came off the bench to add 11 points, and freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice dished out seven assists in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, Bronson Koenig added 10 points, though he was 1 of 6 from 3-point range.
“That’s the nice thing about having guys on the bench who will go in and play as hard as you can, as smart as you can, for as long as you can,” Gard said.
The Badgers (2-1) were just 11 of 39 from beyond the 3-point line against Creighton. They again struggled from deep Thursday, hitting 5 of 19. But they had little trouble with the Cougars (1-1) inside as they pulled away. They hit almost 54 percent of their two-point attempts, outscoring Chicago State 34-10 in the paint.
Fred Sims scored 26 points to lead Chicago State, which came out in a zone and pressed Wisconsin early.
Coach Tracy Dildy said his staff saw Wisconsin’s shooting troubles in Tuesday’s game and decided to go with a zone to “see where it can take us.” With the Badgers’ struggles continuing, he added, it likely made the Cougars’ zone look better than it was.
“But they stopped settling for 3s and really were able to have their way pounding it inside,” he said.
Chicago State: Hey, it’s a paycheck. The Panthers went 4-28 last season, including 0-14 in the Western Athletic Conference. They were a tune up for a bigger, deeper and more talented team.
Wisconsin: It wasn’t always pretty but Wisconsin played better inside than it did in Tuesday’s loss and now moves onto bigger challenges.
TOUGH NIGHT AT THE OFFICE
Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes, who scored 16 points in Tuesday’s loss, was a non-factor. He was 1 for 8 from the field, including 1 for 4 from 3-point range, and 0 for 2 from the free throw line. He finished with three points. He wasn’t the only one who struggled. Fellow starter Zak Showalter missed all five shots he took, including four from behind the 3-point line.
Hayes and and fellow Badger Jordan Hill continued their protest during the national anthem. Both stood a step behind the rest of their teammates while it was played. Hayes stood with his hands clasped behind his back, head down with the collar of his warm-up shirt pulled up over the bottom half of his face.
It’s not going to make up for Tuesday’s loss to Creighton. But the Badgers largely took care of business and have a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of pollsters when they head to Maui next week.
Chicago State: The Cougars travel to Oakland on Saturday as they play 14 of their 16 pre-conference games on the road. That includes two games next month in Nevada as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
Wisconsin: The Badgers will get some stiffer competition against No. 21 Tennessee on Monday in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.