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Falcons basketball faces and falls to UW-Madison Badgers for exhibition

November 12, 2015

There’s buzz at the beginning of every basketball season, but this year the Falcon Men’s basketball team got the opportunity to play one of the top teams in the nation.

This past week, the Falcons traveled to Madison to play the University of Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center for an exhibition game. The Falcons fought tough all night, but fell to the previous year’s national runner-ups 101-46.

Playing a Division I team is a huge task, but the Falcons came out strong from the start. Junior forward Garrett Pearson scored eight of the team’s first 13 points to keep the Falcons close midway through the first half. Pearson would end the night 3-3 from beyond the arc and be the team’s high scorer with 11 points.

“We made a lot of our shots early on and forced the Badgers to work hard for their baskets. The environment didn’t seem to affect the guys too much and they managed to keep everything focused on the court,” Head Coach Jeff Berkhof said.

But being the Division I powerhouse they are, the Badgers eventually pulled away in the first half. Standouts Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig continued their success from the previous season, scoring 16 and 10 points, respectively. The Badgers also came out on fire from beyond the arc, going 6-6 as a team in the first half and finishing 45 percent shooting on the night.

“When you face a Division I team they’re going to eventually wear you down with their athleticism and length. That’s when it really starts to show the difference between teams, but we still managed to have great composure and play our game,” Berkhof said.

The Badgers offensive attack led them to a 46-27 advantage at halftime. But the real story of the game was the Badger defense and their ability to grab rebounds over the Falcons all night. The Badgers managed to hold UWRF to a 20 percent field goal percentage and outrebounded them 57-25 on the glass. Domination in these key stats proves once again why the Badgers will be dangerous in the Big Ten.

Senior forward Jack Herum saw this is an area to work on, saying, “The biggest takeaway from the game for us is that we must be able to guard for the full 30 seconds of the shot clock and secure a clean rebound on the first shot attempt. We were out rebounded by the Badgers by a large margin (which is expected) but still have to make sure that doesn’t carry over to WIAC play.”

Coach Berkhof added, “When you shoot 20 percent, it’s a combination of a lot of factors. Wisconsin makes you to go at a faster tempo than you’d usually like and forces a lot of difficult shots. We came out strong but just had some trouble hitting some open shots when we started to get behind.”

With the Falcons struggling to shoot the ball, the Badgers pulled away to make the final score 101-46 at the Kohl Center. But being as it was just an exhibition game, it was more the experience and practice they’ll take away from it.

“The atmosphere playing at the Kohl center was electrifying and it was an amazing experience. Playing in front of 15,000 isn’t something most athletes get to do (especially at the D3 level). It was an experience of a lifetime,” Herum said.

Berkhof added, “It was a great experience for our players and coaches getting to travel to Madison for the game. There’s obviously a lot of excitement with how they’ve finished the last two years and we got to be their first game back. But being as it was just a preseason game, we’ll mostly just use it as good preparation for when our season really starts to take off soon.”

UWRF is returning four of five starters this season and are looking to improve on their impressive 10-6 WIAC record from last year. They’re also projected to finish 4th in the conference, according to the WIAC preseason coaches’ poll.

The Falcons open their regular season by traveling to Concordia University (WI) on Nov. 14. UWRF’s first home game is Nov. 17 against Bethel at 8 p.m. at Karges Center.