Shooting 50 percent from the field in the game's first twenty minutes — their highest mark yet this season in the first half — UW rode a constant stream of buckets and the usual stifling defense Wednesday night to a 87-48 shellacking of North Carolina State at the Kohl Center. The Badgers shot 50 percent for the game, knocked down 55 percent of their three-pointers and made 20 free throws against only 13 attempts from the Wolfpack, a Bo Ryan specialty.
It was the first time Wisconsin played a complete 40 minutes since the four-game road-trip the Badgers struggled to 2-2 on. For the season, UW was shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from beyond the arc entering Wednesday night. The snail-slow starts put UW in too deep of a hole to climb out against UNLV and Notre Dame previously — a fact not lost on the players for importance of starting as strong as you finish.
"It is hard to come back against us," Jon Leuer, who finished with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting said. "Tonight we got off to a pretty good start … we were being unselfish and getting good shots."
"Players have to man up and make a play," Ryan added for how to avoid the cold streaks. "Get fouled, get an offensive rebound. There are a lot of different ways you can create, get a steal and a layup at the other end. We had all that happen tonight."
With N.C. State possessing sufficient size on the inside but not nearly enough quickness with the bigs, UW forwards were able to exploit their counterparts on the perimeter. Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz both went three-for-three from beyond the arc, while Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer were able to find open space for jumpers at the midrange level.
Wisconsin assisted on 17 of the 28 made field goals, turned the ball over just six times and virtually had the game won by halftime, leading the Wolfpack 44-21.
"We knew they could shoot the ball," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They are a different team, the adjustment our bigs had to make. When they get penetration, as opposed to their bigs rolling, they will pop out, spread you out and shoot the ball. Several times they caught our centers rotating down."
Coming off a miserable road-trip shooting 12-for-37, point guard Jordan Taylor expressed this week that he didn't think he personally was playing aggressive enough in attacking the rim.
He took his own advice to heart.
Within the first four minutes of the game, Taylor had scored five points and assisted on a Josh Gasser three-pointer to get the Badgers rolling. Taylor continued to attack the basket throughout his 29 minutes on the court, attempting just three treys out of his 12 field goal attempts. He connected on 8-of-12, using a variety of floaters in the lane and a few clinical post-up moves to finish the game with 21 points.
"He is an intelligent player, he knows what makes a team more effective than not," Ryan said of Taylor.
For the second consecutive year, the Big Ten won the ACC-Big Ten challenge, a symbolic changing of the guard after the ACC won the first 10 events. It was the third consecutive win for the Badgers in the non-conference matchup.
Leuer was so happy, he interrupted one of his own answers to celebrate as Purdue knocked off Virginia Tech to seal the conference victory.
"Go Big Ten," Leuer said simply.