I had the opportunity of shooting every home game for the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team this season and what a ride it was. The Badgers went from relatively under the radar to top five team to unranked to earning a number 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I would like to share some of the moments that I captured along the way with all of you.
November 12, 2013 - Wisconsin 59, Florida 53
Following an 86-75 road win against St. Johns Red Storm, the Badgers opened the season at the Kohl Center against the 11th ranked Florida Gators. Sam Dekker scored 16 points and Traevon Jackson added 13. This marked the 16th straight win in home openers for the Badgers.
November 19, 2013 - Wisconsin 103, North Dakota 85
Following a 69-66 road win against Green Bay, the Badgers faced off against North Dakota. Scoring in a variety of ways, Frank Kaminsky broke the UW school record with an incredible 43 points, passing Ken Barnes (1965) and Michael Finley (1994). "When those first couple of shots went in, I kind of said `I'm feeling it,"' Kaminsky said. "I kept shooting and it kept going in."
November 23, 2013 - Wisconsin 76, Oral Roberts 67
After a 88-64 home win against the Bowling Green Falcons, the Badgers went head to head against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles. Wisconsin had five players score in double figures, led by Frank Kaminsky with 21 points.
December 7, 2013 - Wisconsin 70, Marquette 64
Following neutral site wins against The Saint Louis Bilikens (63-57) and the West Virginia Mountaineers (70-63) in addition to a road win against the Virginia Cavaliers (48-38), the Badgers faced off against state rivals, the Marquette Golden Eagles. Wisconsin withstood a late rally from Marquette led by Sam Dekker with 20 points. Dekker and Frank Kaminsky traded off a pair of alley oops in the second half to assure an emphatic win. "The city's pretty split, Marquette-Wisconsin-wise," Dekker said. "To have a chance to get a win tonight and also play well doing that is very gratifying."
December 11, 2013 - Wisconsin 78, Milwaukee 52
Led by Ben Brust with 18 points and Frank Kaminsky with 16, the Badgers routed Milwaukee to complete the in state sweep with wins over Green Bay, Marquette, and Milwaukee. This win matched their record to open the 1993-94 season with 11 straight wins. Said Coach Bo Ryan of Ben Brust after the game, “He draws a lot of attention from other teams. He’s been opportunistic. He attacked pretty well, drew the defense and found a lot of guys. He’s been pretty solid. Defensively he’s been pretty solid. He’s just been good. I don’t know how you overlook good. We certainly haven’t overlooked him.”
December 14, 2013 - Wisconsin 86, Eastern Kentucky 61
Four Badgers scored in double figures, led by Ben Brust with 20 points on 7 of 12 shooting. Nigel Hayes scored a career high 17 points. With this win, the Badgers were off to their best start to a season since 1915-16. "We've got a lot of pieces, and it's coming together nicely. But we've got a lot of work to do," Brust said.
December 28, 2013 - Wisconsin 80, Prairie View A&M 43
In their last non-conference game of the season, Wisconsin easily knocked off the Panthers with even contributions as once again at least four Badgers scored in double figures, led by Sam Dekker with 16. Nigel Hayes contributed 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks. Wisconsin out rebounded the Panthers 42-25.
January 5, 2014 - Wisconsin 75, Iowa 71
Following their first conference game of the season, a 76-49 road win against Northwestern, the Badgers faced off against a 22nd ranked Iowa squad. The Badgers fell behind in the first half, opening the second half down 11 points. Ben Brust led the way, scoring all of his 19 points in the second half. Gasser added 14 points as well as making 6 of his 7 foul shots. With this win, the Badgers matched the best start in school history with 15 straight wins.
January 8, 2014 - Wisconsin 95, Illinois 70
Following an intense game with Iowa, Wisconsin made easy work of the 23rd ranked Fighting Illini with five Badgers scoring in double figures for the 5th time of the season in addition to reaching at least 70 points for their 7th straight game. Wisconsin shot 56% for the game led by Ben Brust with 18 points. Dekker contributed 17 and Kaminsky added 15. With the win, the Badgers were off to the best start in school history, winning 16 straight games. "For the players, what they've accomplished ... I'm certainly proud of them," said Coach Bo Ryan after the game, "But you know, you start thinking about that too much, it can go the other way in a hurry."
January 18, 2014 - Michigan 77, Wisconsin 70
Following their first loss of the season on the road against Indiana (75-72), the Badgers faced a tough Michigan squad led by future Big Ten player of the year, Nik Stauskus. Michigan was on fire for the first half, shooting 60 percent while the Badgers suffered from uncharacteristically sloppy play. The Badgers made a late game surge, creating a 14-2 run. Ultimately they would fall short as Stauskus scored 23 points and hit a key 3 with 48 seconds left to put the Badgers away.
January 29, 2014 - Northwestern 65, Wisconsin 56
Following the loss to Michigan, Wisconsin hit the road for two games, losing to Minnesota 81-68 but pulling off a win against Purdue 72-58. They attempted to regroup at the Kohl Center but fell short against the Northwestern Wildcats with another night of cold shooting (26%). Ben Brust's 21 points were not enough as the Badgers lost their fourth game in five.
February 1, 2014 - Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 58
Facing off against a 24th ranked Ohio State Buckeye squad, the Badgers sought to break a two game losing streak at the Kohl Center. It was a very physical, back and forth game. However, a field-goal drought over the last 6 minutes and 42 seconds combined with poor shooting from the free throw line did in the Badgers. Despite 17 points from freshmen Nigel Hayes, the Badgers lost their third straight game at home for the first time since 1998. Said Ben Brust after the game, “I don’t think we’re happy by any means, but we want to get back to what we know we can be. We have to change something, so we’re going to get back at it. We can’t sulk. We’ve got to move on. There’s nine games left and we’ve got to try and turn those nine games positively.”
February 9, 2014 - Wisconsin 60, Michigan State 58
Following a much needed road win against Illinois (75-63), the Badgers returned home knowing they had work to do in order to recapture the momentum that they started the season with. They faced a 9th ranked Michigan State Spartans team. Nigel Hayes led the Badgers with 14 points, but Traevon Jackson ended up being the hero of the day making a gaming winning pull up jump shot from about 10 feet with 2.1 seconds left in the game. The victory snapped a three game losing streak at the Kohl Center. "That's sort of what they expected out of me is just to finish the game," Jackson said. "The pull-up was there, and I was blessed to be able to make it go in."
February 13, 2014 - Wisconsin 78, Minnesota 70
With a regained energy from the big win against Michigan State, Wisconsin came out firing on all cylinders against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Badgers front court led the way with big games from their front court in the paint as Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes, and Sam Dekker all scored in double figures. "The energy is contagious," Kaminsky said. "Everyone was bringing it tonight."
February 25, 2014 - Wisconsin 69, Indiana 58
Following the win against Minnesota, the Badgers went on the road for two games, winning both against 15th ranked Michigan 75-62 and 15th ranked Iowa 79-74. After these wins, they returned to the Kohl Center and sought revenge against an Indiana squad who took the first game at Assembly Hall . The Badgers struggled mightily in the first half, only scoring 19 points. However, behind a 62 percent shooting effort in the second half with five Badgers scoring in double figures, the Badgers came back to knock out the Hoosiers who were led by 24 points by Yogi Ferrell. The Badgers committed only three turnovers all night.
March 5, 2014 - Wisconsin 76, Purdue 70
Following a 71-66 road win against the Penn State Nittany Lions, the Badgers headed back to the Kohl Center for their last home game of the season and to celebrate senior night for Evan Anderson, Zach Bohannon, and Ben Brust. The Boilermakers kept things interesting all game, but the Badgers were never seriously threatened, led by Kaminsky with 22 points. Said Brust after the game, "It was nice to have everyone smiling in the locker room and smiling after the game. It makes it much better for everyone and the seniors especially. It’s much better to get a win on your last time on the home floor. I’ve had some amazing experiences here at the Kohl Center and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do the rest of the way."
The Badgers would go on to lose their last season game on the road against Nebraska 77-68, finishing the regular season with a 25-6 record. Following an 83-75 exit of the Big Ten Tournament dealt by Michigan State, the Badgers would go into the NCAA Tournament with a 2-seed. After wins against American University Eagles (75-35) and Oregon Ducks (85-77) in Milwaukee, they enter the Sweet Sixteen playing 6-seed Baylor in Anaheim, California on Thursday, March 27th at 6:47 PM CT on TBS.