By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: O'Connell Center (12,000) -- Gainesville, Florida. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Wisconsin 1-0, Florida 1-0. Away Record: Wisconsin 0-0, Florida 0-0. Neutral Record: Wisconsin 0-0, Florida 0-0. Conference Record: Wisconsin 0-0, Florida 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The 22nd-ranked Wisconsin Badgers and the 10th-ranked Florida Gators square off at the O'Connell Center on Wednesday night in a marquee matchup between two of the nation's elite teams.
Wisconsin had a tune-up game of sorts in its opener against Southeastern Louisiana, and it took full advantage with a dominating 87-47 victory. The Badgers have won their lidlifter in seven straight seasons.
Florida's season began with a false start against Georgetown aboard the U.S.S. Bataan in Jacksonville on Friday, but the game was vacated after the first half due to slippery conditions on the court. The Gators bounced back for their official season opener on Sunday with a 84-35 win over Alabama State. Tonight's matchup against Wisconsin is one of several difficult non-conference games Florida has schedule this season, as it will also face Florida State, Arizona, Marquette and Kansas State to name a few.
These two teams have only played each other twice previously, with each side logging a win. It has been more than 40 years since the last meeting.
Wisconsin was one of the top defensive teams in the country a year ago, and while its season-opening opponent wasn't an offensive juggernaut, it still impressed by holding Southeastern Louisiana to 35.2 percent field goal shooting. As for the Badgers' shooting effort, they were on fire the whole game, connecting on better than 50 percent of their total shots in both halves. Jared Berggren got his senior season off to a fantastic start, leading the team with 19 points while also adding eight rebounds and four blocks in just 24 minutes of work. Ben Brust tallied a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, and Mike Bruesewitz was perfect from the field (3-of-3) with two three-pointers for 10 points. Bruesewitz gave Wisconsin a boost by returning to game action well ahead of schedule after suffering a severe laceration on his lower right leg during practice on Oct. 9.
Florida put together one of the most lopsided first halves in program history against Alabama State, as it went into the break with a commanding 47-9 lead. The nine points allowed in the opening half set a school record during the shot-clock era. The Gators let up a little bit in the second half with the game well in hand, but they still connected on 47.5 percent of their total shots, and were paced by Kenny Boynton with his 22 points on 8-of-10 from the field. Boynton also logged six boards and five assists, and the team will likely go as far as he will take it this season. Erik Murphy scored 15 points, and Mike Rosario chipped in with 14. Patric Young registered a true double- double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and he also swatted away two shots. Will Yeguete (three points) was the only starter who failed to score in double digits, but he made up for it with five assists.
With plenty of talent on the floor, the crowd at the O'Connell Center is in for a hard-fought battle in this one. Wisconsin's defensive game plan should hold Florida to fewer points than it is accustomed to, but expect the Gators to outlast the Badgers in front of the hometown faithful.