(7) Wisconsin 77, Eastern Illinois 67: Last word

No. 7 Wisconsin got 18 points and nine rebounds from Nate Reuvers to top Eastern Illinois 77-67 in the season opener for both teams Wednesday night at a nearly empty Kohl Center.

Player of the Game: Reuvers

The senior scored half of Wisconsin’s first 20 points and finished the night shooting 60% from the field, including going 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. He was good around the basket, finishing over an undersized Panthers squad. His 18 points and nine rebounds followed a 14-point, 14-rebound game against EIU a year ago. Reuvers was also a force on the defensive end, blocking three shots in the first 8:29 of the game. He ended the evening with five blocks and now sits just six short of the school record (154) held by Ethan Happ.

The good: The freshmen

Wisconsin’s freshman class was among the highest-rated in school history and a couple of them made a very good first impressions in their debuts. Forward Ben Carlson was first off the bench and finished with 13 points in 17 minutes, while guard Johnny Davis was active on both ends, scoring eight points, grabbing two rebounds, a contributing a block and a steal.

The not so good: Shaky second half

The Badgers built a 27 point lead at one point early in the second half but didn’t keep their foot on the pedal. It was a combination of issues, including shooting just 23.5% from the floor after the break and also allowing Eastern Illinois to put up 47 points. Coach Greg Gard knew consistency in bland environments like most arenas will be this year is key and they didn’t have it Wednesday night.

Stat of the Game: 29

That’s how many foul shots the Badgers took. That’s more than in any game last year. Their 22 makes is also more than in any game a year ago.

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What they said:

Greg Gard talking about the debut of freshman Ben Carlson

“Ben, specifically, I thought looked really comfortable. Probably as comfortable as any freshman we’ve had here in a little while. Not that he has eye-popping numbers — he’s four for five and a couple rebounds — but I thought he just looked in place. I thought he was really at ease on the floor.”

In Case You Missed It

— With COVID-19 restrictions in place, no fans were allowed into the game. In a little twist, Wisconsin had the families of the players announce the starting lineups.

— Wisconsin’s warmup shirts featured UW’s crest with a black “W” and they also have a patch with the crest on their jerseys. Student-athletes pushed for the inclusion of the “W” on their uniforms this year as part of the effort for justice reform and equality.

— Micah Potter left with what initially appeared to be an ankle injury. However, once on the sideline, the senior was getting stretched out as if it was a cramp. He later returned and finished with nine points, eight rebounds and two assists.

— Dating back to last season, D’Mitrik Trice has 43 assists and 11 turnovers in his last eight games after posting five assists and no turnovers on Wednesday. The senior also had three steals.

— Wisconsin got 32 points from their bench — in addition to Carlson’s 13 and Davis’ 8, sophomore Tyler Wahl had nine points and freshman Steven Crowl added 2.

What’s next?

Wisconsin (1-0) will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-1) on Friday. The Golden Lions were at Marquette on Wednesday and lost 99-57.