MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Micah Potter endured a 644-day wait to play another collegiate basketball game.
The 6-foot-10 junior got his chance on Saturday against Milwaukee.
D’Mitrick Trice scored a career-high 31 points and Nate Reuvers had 22 points to help Wisconsin overpower Milwaukee in a 83-64 victory.
The win gave the Badgers (6-5) a sweep against intrastate opponents this season, with victories over Milwaukee, Green Bay and Marquette.
Though Trice had a strong game, the spotlight was on Potter, an Ohio State transfer who was denied appeals to play five times by the NCAA’s Committee of Legislative Relief.
Potter shot 3 of 6 from the field in his Badgers’ debut, scored 12 points and played 13 minutes. He also had three turnovers. The last time Potter played at Ohio State was during an NCAA Tournament loss to Gonzaga on March 18, 2018.
“Finally,” said Potter about his feelings when he was inserted into the game in the first quarter. “I was trying to keep calm because, obviously, there were some jitters going on. I was trying to stay focused on what I needed to do, and that was play hard, play physical and play smart.
“The ovation I got was pretty cool, too. It got me excited to play.”
Meanwhile, Darius Roy delivered 21 points and Te’Jon Lucas, an Illinois transfer in his first season at Milwaukee, had 10 points for the Panthers (5-7), who have lost five straight games.
Wisconsin held a 43-41 halftime lead after Milwaukee stayed within striking distance in the first half with a 3-point shooting barrage. The Panthers shot 7 of 11 from beyond the arc, including a pair of banked 3-pointers. Roy and Lucas combined for four of those long-range baskets.
The Badgers held the Panthers scoreless from 3-point range in the second half. They also held Lucas scoreless in the second.
The Panthers scored one point in their first five possessions after halftime and the Badgers extended their lead to 49-42 on a pair of Reuver free throws with 15:59 to go in the game.
Milwaukee coach Pat Baldwin said he liked his team’s effort in the first half, but the Panthers slid defensively in keeping an eye on Trice and Reuvers in the second.
“We were hitting some shots in the first half, got downhill, got to the basket and made some plays,” Baldwin said.
“Trice loves getting right, and that’s where he was setting up. He was going left to right in his pull up and that’s his game. If anything, you want to force him left and we didn’t do a good job of keeping him out of those sweet spots that he likes.”
Potter will play an important role in allowing Reuvers, a 6-11 big man, to get much-needed rest on the bench during a game. Reuvers is Wisconsin’s scoring leader at 15.2 points per game.
“We’re glad to have him,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said of Potter’s first Wisconsin appearance. “He can take some of the physical toll off of Nate, just from a minutes stand point. It just helps (Reuvers) not have to play as extended of time.
“I didn’t play them together today, but that is something that possibly will come down the road. I’ve done it in practice.”
Reuvers averages 29.4 minutes and 5.2 rebounds per game. He said he’s thrilled to see Potter on the court.
“He’s high energy and he runs the floor really well, and that’s something that coach always talks about is getting that first guy down there really helps us set up our offense,” Reuvers said. “Micah’s another big body and another guy who can just really play. We’re going to really need him during Big Ten play.”
Milwaukee: There’s potential for the Panthers to make an impact if the backcourt duo of Roy and Lucas can maintain confidence on offense. Roy is the team’s leading returning scorer from last season at 15.8 points per game and Lucas entered Saturday’s game with 4.2 assists per game this season.
Wisconsin: Potter will add some punch on offense for the Badgers, who have had several streaky shooting efforts this season. If Reuvers and Potter both shoot well, it bodes well for Wisconsin, which has missed the production provided on offense by big man Ethan Happ, who exhausted his eligibility last season.
The Badgers entered Saturday’s game with 11.5 turnovers-per-game, and need to clean up their ball-handling issues before returning to Big Ten Conference action. They committed nine turnovers on Saturday.
Both teams play two final games before conference action. Milwaukee plays at Northern Kentucky on Dec. 28 and Wright State on Dec. 30 before the Horizon League opener on Jan. 3 against IUPUI.
Wisconsin faces No. 21 Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. on Dec. 28 and hosts Rider on Dec. 31 before resuming Big Ten play at Ohio State on Jan. 5.
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