Ryan Evans was in a massive funk entering the game against Green Bay and it was starting to affect the team, but on Wednesday night both the team and Evans broke out of that funk in a big way. His team high 13 points helped Wisconsin win by 11 points, 65-44. More importantly it was Evans getting out of the funk from the free throw line that helped spark this team as a whole.
With the win Wisconsin improves to 7-4 on the season overall and will now have 10 days off for finals.
Evans wasn't just a scoring presence for the Badgers either as he added a team high 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He was joined in double figure scoring by Sam Dekker and Jared Berggren, who both had 10 points in the victory.
It's safe to say it wasn't exactly how Wisconsin drew up the start of this one, especially coming off the ten point loss to Marquette, but as fans we've become accustomed to this team going down early and that's again what happened against Green Bay.
The Phoenix started off hot thanks to it's two biggest threats on the night - point guard Keifer Sykes and forward Brennan Cougill. Sykes led all scores in the game with 14 points on 7-18 shooting, while Cougill had a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds
But, after a 7-0 run by Green Bay that put them up 9-2 and with a terrible 1-9 start in the shooting department the Badgers woke up a bit and settled into a pattern that kept them within seven points, that is until Ryan Evans made his first trip to the charity stripe with 5:03 left in the half.
Evans hit both of his free throws, bringing the crowd to a standing ovation for the man struggling from the free throw line, and more importantly sparking the Badgers to a 13-2 run to end the 1st half.
Wisconsin parlayed that 13-2 run into it's very first lead of the half at 24-23 on a thunderous dunk by Jared Berggren with 2:48 left in the half, a dunk that was made possible by a pass from none other than Ryan Evans.
Thanks to that run the Badgers went into the half leading 27-23. Four players tied for the game lead at the intermissions with six points a piece. It was Ryan Evans and George Marshall for Wisconsin, while it was Keifer Sykes and Brennan Cougill for Green Bay.
The 2nd half was the exact opposite for Wisconsin as they hit on their first 5 possessions of the half and stretched their lead to 39-27. It was a run that was punctuated by back-to-back alley oop dunks by Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans.
From there it was all over for Green Bay who couldn't recover, cutting the lead to single digits a few times, but never getting back into the danger zone for the Badgers.
Evans hit 3 of 6 free throws and the Badgers hit a bit better overall from the line, making 60% of their shots from the charity stripe. However, 60% is still not good enough come conference play and it's doubtful I'm telling you anything I don't already know.
Having said that, it's time to move on to grading out the players in this one.
Ben Brust: (C) - 6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists; you'd think that would give him a higher grade, right? However he shot just 2-7 from the field and was just 2-4 from the free throw line so he is downgraded because of that. It was just a pretty average game from him.
Ryan Evans: (A -) - This is what we've been waiting for from Evans who had an all around good game and if it weren't for a little air ball action on one late free throw this may have been an A+ from him. It's hard to argue against 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Traevon Jackson: (C) - 4 points, 2 steals and some good defense in his 21 minutes is pretty good and all, but the Badgers need more from him on the offensive end. His big highlight of the night was a good drive for a layup in the 1st half. Now if only we could combine George Marshall's offense and Jackson's defense, huh?
Sam Dekker: (A) - Dekker had perhaps his most complete game of the year despite not scoring the most points of the season either. His defense has started to catch up to his offense and it showed with a near double-double. Add in the fact that he also hit both of his free throws, something he's struggled to do this year. It's hard to say he could've played a much better game.
Jared Berggren: (A) - His grade would've been a bit higher but he "only" had 4 rebounds on the night. Otherwise he was so much more aggressive on both ends of the floor overall. His power dunk on the offensive end of the floor to give the Badgers their first lead and the fact that he had 4 blocks are enough for an A from me.
Frank Kaminsky: (A -) - Kaminsky had an impressive 14 minutes of action against some very impressive post players for GB. He also was very efficient on the offensive end, hitting 3 of 5 shots and scoring 8 points. Can't really argue he didn't play well on either end of the floor and he continues to find is role on this team more and more each game.
George Marshall: (B -) - He had just 19 minutes of action but when Wisconsin was struggling on the offensive end of the court early on Marshall came on and hit is first shot of the night, burying a 3 pointer that helped to get the Badgers on a better footing. His defense still needs some work, but he's getting better and better with every single game.
Zak Showalter: (A+) - There wasn't a player on the court that played with more energy and made more plays at key times than Showalter. He had an absolutely sick pass in the post to a streaking Evans who hit a reverse layup off the baseline that really sticks out and he ended the night with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. I'll take that production from a guy who was supposed to walk-on at Wisconsin this year.
Zach Bohannon: (incomplete) - he only saw 7 minutes of action and only recorded a turnover for a stat on the night and attempted just one field goal. Simply not enough to grade him on.