Khalil Iverson didn’t have to put much thought into dunking the ball in high school.

“An easy two points,” said Iverson, a freshman swingman on the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team. “But now, you have to kind of expect someone to come and contest your shot every single time. I’ve learned.”

The hard way, at times. Like during the Badgers’ 66-58 overtime win at Syracuse last week, when both of Iverson’s dunk attempts resulted in blocked shots by bigger defenders who seemed to come out of nowhere.

“I thought there was no one around,” Iverson said.

Fellow freshmen Charlie Thomas and Alex Illikainen know exactly how Iverson feels.

They, too, have gotten a primer on how difficult it is to finish around the rim at times at the college level. “Guys are a lot bigger,” Thomas said, “and everything is much faster.”

Games against Georgetown, VCU, Oklahoma and Syracuse over a span of 13 days gave the freshmen a taste of what they’ll see when Big Ten play begins later this month.

The Badgers (6-3) continue non-conference play tonight with a game against UW-Milwaukee (6-3) at the Kohl Center.

“Some days, they’re going to look really energetic and poised and good,” UW assistant coach Lamont Paris said of Iverson, Thomas and Illikainen. “Other days, they’re going to look like they’re erratic. … I think they’re your prototypical freshmen in that sense playing at this level.

“Now, you have some special freshmen that are able to go out there on a consistent basis and perform like they’re a little older. But these guys are your typical freshmen from that standpoint, just trying to learn their way and contribute when they can. They’re trying hard, and you can always say that. But sometimes, they perform better and sometimes they don’t.”

Thomas and Illikainen, who are both forwards, are coming off their best games.

Thomas had nine points and six rebounds in UW’s 76-60 victory over Temple on Saturday afternoon, while Illikainen delivered six points and nine rebounds.

Iverson, who had two turnovers to go along with the two missed dunks in a season-low four minutes vs. Syracuse, had four rebounds in 12 minutes against Temple.

Iverson tweaked his back in practice last Friday and sat out the entire second half against the Owls after it tightened up, but he practiced Tuesday and said he’s ready to play against the Panthers. The growing pains are very evident at times with the freshmen, who have tested UW coach Bo Ryan’s patience.

In practice on Tuesday, Ryan screamed at Thomas after he caught the ball in the post and immediately dribbled as a double team quickly converged on him.

“It’s just breaking bad habits,” Thomas said.

And building some good habits.

The art of deception is something Ryan tries to instill in his young players as a way to make up for disadvantages in size or quickness. It was something the coaching staff discussed with Iverson when breaking down the two dunk attempts vs. Syracuse.

“You learn pump-fakes,” Ryan said. “You learn when to use the glass, when to try to throw it down, what’s more advantageous. The quickest way to score when you get it into the post is to quickly get to the backboard with it before the help can get there. If you’ve got to power down and power up and you’re thinking only a dunk, that’s another step that the defense gets to come play you.”

Iverson, Thomas and Illikainen all admitted that using ball fakes and shot fakes were not something they had to do much in high school.

Now that finishing around the rim is more difficult, deception has to be a big part of their games.

“It’s tough,” Illikainen said. “They close quickly, they box out harder. You have two options: You’re either going to go up right away or you’re going to pump fake. “That’s the hardest thing to read. Because if you’re wrong, they’re going to swat it into the fifth row.”