The Wisconsin Badgers gave the University of Ottawa men’s basketball team a little taste of their own medicine on Thursday night, shooting 58 per cent from long range on the way to a 101-92 victory at Montpetit Hall.
The Badgers drained fifteen three-pointers on the evening to keep pace with the prolific Gee-Gees shooters, who characteristically netted thirteen. The difference-maker for Wisconsin was 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Sam Dekker, who made good on 9-of-11 from the field for 20 points along with 8 rebounds.
“Size was a big factor tonight,” acknowledged Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin, who split the defensive duties on Dekker between Caleb Agada, Vikas Gill, and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue at various points throughout the evening.
Fourth-year Gonthier-Dubue struggled to match the Badgers’ inside scoring presence – he scored just three field goals and fouled out of the game with three minutes remaining in the game.
Mike L’Africain paced the offence for the Gee-Gees with 24 points including a 3-for-3 effort from beyond the arc. Johnny Berhanemeskel maintained his torrid scoring pace in the early-going of the season, netting 23.
The first half featured back-and forth action as the teams traded turns holding the lead. Ottawa’s largest lead of the game came at the 35-29 mark but the home squad’s offence went cold in the final minutes of the first half, leading to a 55-44 Badger advantage at the break.
In the second half, Ottawa was shut down on the outside and had to improvise inside. Scores by Berhanemeskel and L’Africain in the lane held Ottawa within reach while defensively, the Gee-Gees experimented with a zone.
“Dekker is a special player and what he was able to do against us forced us into a zone,” said Derouin. “It made a little bit of a run for us to help stem the tide. Once we picked up in our press we forced some turnovers, but we didn’t have that intensity in the first half.”
The different look slowed Wisconsin down enough to bring the lead inside single digits. Agada scored a key bucket slashing through the lane with 4:30 to play to bring things under ten at 84-75. The Gee-Gee defence promptly forced a turnover and Berhanemeskel brought Ottawa within six with a pair of free throws.
But the home side could rally no further due to the Badgers’ execution on the foul line late and a series of turnovers on the offensive end. One of those turnovers was more damaging than most as L’Africain had to leave the game with 2:10 remaining after colliding with a Badger diving for a loose ball. He will not be available for the Gee-Gees on Saturday against Syracuse.
Ottawa outscored the Badgers 48-46 in the second half and shot 49 per cent from the floor for the game.
Ottawa hosts the Syracuse Orange at Montpetit Hall for a 7 p.m. tip off on Saturday, August 24.