MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Ethan Happ had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Wisconsin opened a season of transition with an 85-50 win on Friday night over South Carolina State.
Andy Van Vliet added 18 points for the Badgers, who are working in four new starters around one of the country’s top big men in Happ. The athletic, 6-foot-10 junior often toyed with the smaller Bulldogs in the lane.
South Carolina State fell behind by as much as 17 late in the first half but kept things respectable until midway through the second half. Van Vliet propelled a 10-0 run with two 3s and a steal that led to another bucket for a 68-47 lead with 7:17 left.
The Bulldogs tried to keep up by running the floor and taking quick, often tough shots from the perimeter. Donte Wright had 13 points, going 5 of 16 from the field and 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
Otherwise, South Carolina State rarely had an answer for Happ on both ends of the floor.
Brevin Pritzl added 17 points for the Badgers, who lost to Florida in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals last year.
South Carolina State: It’s another season-opening road trip to learn valuable lessons for the Bulldogs, who were picked to finish seventh in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Coach Murray Garvin returned two starters off a team that finished 11-20 (7-9 MEAC) last year. Wright, a 5-foot-10 graduate transfer, looked fearless in taking jumpers all over the court. No other Bulldog scored in double figures.
Wisconsin: Coach Greg Gard will be figuring out the rotation early in the season with the Badgers incorporating so many new faces into bigger roles. Six-foot-9 forward Aleem Ford, a redshirt freshman, was the first big man off the bench, while true freshmen Kobe King and Brad Davison came into the game together about 5 minutes into the first quarter. Davison, who plays with a hard-nosed style that reminds coaches of former Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter, had five points and two assists over 15 minutes. King, a highly-recruited wing player, had six points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.
South Carolina State: At Boston College on Sunday.
Wisconsin: Hosts Yale on Sunday.