Alabama, coming off a Christmas break, had a very slow start, missing shots and failing to guard on defense. Wisconsin scored the first seven points of the game and successfully held off every Alabama run. The Badgers built as much as a 12-point lead in the first half, saw Alabama pull to within three, then outscored the Tide 11-4 in the final five minutes to take a 33-23 lead at halftime.
The 23 first half points was by a team that went into the game leading the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 86 points per game. Although Bama also made a few runs in the second half as the Tide hit 57 per cent from the field after intermission, the Badgers–the top defensive team in the Big Ten–were clearly in control.
The downfall for Alabama was open shots. Alabama couldn't hit enough of them and Wisconsin had too many–and did hit them. Wisconsin even hit three "desperation" three-point shots, just trying to beat the shot clock.
The 16-point victory by the defending Big Ten champions was revenge for last year's 71-56 Bama win in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama, now 10-2, returns to Tuscaloosa for its final non-conference game of the year Saturday. Bama will host New Orleans at 6 p.m. CST in Coleman Coliseum.
An obvious difference in the game in Tuscaloosa last year and in Madison this year was the Badgers' Alada Tucker, who didn't play last year, scoring 21 points Wednesday, while Bama's Earnest Shelton, the leading scorer in the SEC most of this year and a 20-point scorer against Wisconsin in 2003, had only two points, a late tip-in.
Chuck Davis, who took some very poor three-point shots in Bama's rocky first half, came out strong in the second half and kept the Tide in contention until getting into foul trouble. Davis finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Kennedy Winston also had 18 points for Alabama. Freshman point guard Ron Steele had 13 points.
Alabama Cpoach Mark Gottfried said, "It's a tough place to play and they are a good team. But we had a tough time getting the ball in the basket. It's part their defense and part us not making some shots we usually make."
Gottfried said, "We're going to struggle when Earnest Shelton scores only two points."
The coach said, "We've got to play better. We've got to execute better. We have to show better patience. We've just got to play better basketball. We've going to work hard and see if we can't improve."
Wisconsin shot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three-point range, while Alabama was at 44 per cent from the field, including only 33 per cent on three-pointers.