In the past three seasons, a Wisconsin program notorious for methodical, low-scoring games has tallied 43 or fewer points four times.
Frank Kaminsky matched that by himself Tuesday night.
Taking advantage of a North Dakota defense that consistently helped off him the whole night, Kaminsky surpassed his season average of 8.7 points in the game's opening eight minutes and his career high of 19 points four minutes later. Kaminsky finished with an astonishing 43 points on 16 of 19 from the field and 6 of 6 from behind the arc, propelling Wisconsin to a 103-85 victory over the Fighting Sioux.
The 43 points Kaminsky piled up were the most any Division I player has scored in a game so far this season. The 6-foot-11 junior also set a new single-game Wisconsin scoring record, eclipsing the 42 points both Ken Barnes and Michael Finley had scored in 1965 and 1994, respectively.
"When those first couple of shots went in I kind of said to myself, ‘I’m feeling it,’" Kaminsky told reporters after the game. "I think I said it to [Traevon Jackson] once on the court. I just kept shooting and it kept going in."
That the scoring record now belongs to Kaminsky is remarkable considering he wasn't even a starter until this season.
Buried on the bench as a sophomore behind Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Sam Dekker, Kaminsky logged only 10.3 minutes per game and averaged only 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds. He became a candidate to start alongside Dekker once the other three graduated last spring, but even then nothing about Kaminsky's style of play suggested a scoring night like this was possible.
Though Kaminsky has always had the ability to score with his back to the basket and a soft touch from the perimeter, his night can be attributed to a combination of torrid shooting and tepid defense. Dekker and point guard Traevon Jackson both repeatedly drew the defense with forays into the paint and then found Kaminsky spotted up when his man left to help on the ball.
Kaminsky went to the bench with 41 points late in the second half, inspiring "We want Frank!" cheers from a Wisconsin student section that wanted to see the school record fall. The fans got their wish as Kaminsky scored a layup with just over a minute to go and then exited the game to a standing ovation.
Why did Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan reinsert Kaminsky? It comes back to a game from Ryan's playing days. His father was furious when Ryan's college coach pulled him when he had 43 points late in a game rather than letting him try for 50.
"I had to listen to my dad all those years when he got around Coach Rainey," Ryan told reporters in Madison. "He’d say, ‘Why didn’t you leave the boy in? Why didn’t you let him do it?’ I didn’t really care. So I thought about Frank’s folks. I’m serious. I thought about his folks, I thought about his friends."
Kaminsky earned that opportunity to go for the record. And to his credit, he made the most of his chance.