Alabama is now 8-2 on the season, while Wisconsin fell to 8-2. It was Bama's sixth straight win and ninth straight victory in Tuscaloosa. Bama will go to Cincinnati Saturday to take on Xavier in a game that will tip off at 2:30 p.m. CST and be televised by ESPN.
The Badgers had been ranked 15th in the nation in the Coaches Poll conducted by ESPN and USA Today and 18th by the Associated Press. Alabama is not ranked, but would likely receive attention with a win over Xavier.
Sophomore forward Chuck Davis had a career-high 21 points and junior guard Earnest Shelton had 20 points, but the real story of the game was Bama's defense. The Tide held Wisconsin to only 37.5 per cent field goal shooting and allowed the Badgers only 24 points in the second half as Bama broke the game open in the second period. Alabama had led by as many as seven points in the first half, but had only a 33-32 advantage at intermission. After a Wisconsin basket gave the Badgers a one-point lead in the opening moments of the second half, the Tide took the lead for good and never looked back. Bama had as much as a 19-point lead in the second half.
Prior to the game much had been made of Wisconsin allowing only 54.7 points per game. With 8:21 to play Kennedy Winston hit a short jumper to put Alabama over that average and give the Tide a 55-43 lead.
Wisconsin was without its best inside player, Alando Tucker, but it's hard to imagine that Tucker at 6-5, 205 would have been much of a factor against Davis. Alabama determined it could work the inside and Davis had 15 of his 21 points in the second half. Bama finished with a 30-10 advantage on points in the paint and an 11-7 edge in second chance points. After the teams both had 16 rebounds at intermission, Alabama -- led by Davis with seven -- had a 34-24 rebounding margin for the game.
With the Tide trailing 34-33 less than a minute into the second half, Davis keyed a 20-6 Alabama run to give Bama a 53-40 lead with 9:17 remaining in the game. The Selma native scored 14 of Alabama's 20 points over that span. Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I thought Chuck Davis was a handful for them."
Ironically, Davis had a horrible shooting night at times, missing several shots of just a few inches. He finished eight-of-16 from the field.
Although Wisconsin plays a deliberate game offensively, when the Badgers fell behind by 61-43 and time getting low, the visitors switched to an up-tempo game and scored five quick points. After a timeout, Bama connected on back-to-back three-pointers by Emmett Thomas and Earnest Shelton to put the Tide up by 67-48 with 3:48 to play.
Wisconsin is a difficult team to defend. The Badgers are a good passing team that sets screens and takes mostly very good shots. Although he may have received a little "Most Favored Player" help from the officials, Wisconsin's all-star guard Davin Harris was very good. He led all scorers with 22 points. But he had to work against a combination of defenders (notably Antoine Pettway and Emmett Thomas) and primarily tough man-to-man defense, but enough zone to upset the Badgers' tempo. Harris hit five-of-12 from the field and made all eight of his free throws.
Alabama blistered the nets in the second half, shooting 59.1 per cent (13-22) from the floor and held the Badgers to only 34.8 per cent (8-23) in breaking the game open. For the game Alabama hit 52.1 per cent from the floor, including 45.5 per cent on three-point shots (5-11). And although the Tide had a shaky start from the free throw line, Bama finished with 16-20, an 80 per cent showing.
Gottfried was pleased with the Tide's effort. He said, "I am proud of our guys. For our young guys to beat a team like Wisconsin -- you are talking about back-to-back Big Ten champs -- what a great effort."
In addition to Davis and Shelton, Kennedy Winston reached double figures with 12 points, 10 of them in the second half. Shelton's 20 marked the fifth time in the last eight games that he has reached the mark. Winston has scored in double figures in nine straight games.
Gottfried said, "Earnest Shelton hit some big shots and Kennedy Winston, not only did he make some big shots, he made some great passes that led to baskets."