The Badgers jumped out to a torrid start, survived a sometimes sluggish second half with a late 17-0 run and got four players to contribute at least 10 points in a 66-33 victory over the Tigers Thursday in front of a season-low 16,954 fans at the Kohl Center.
And for the second straight game, junior Jared Berggren paced the Badgers (10-2) in points, finishing with a game-high 13 and continues to show that his surgically repaired shoulder is no longer an issue.
Two days after shooting an efficient 4 of 6 from the field, 3 of 4 from the three-point line and 6 of 8 from the free throw line, Berggren replicated that by going 5 of 8 from the floor, 2 of 2 from the three-point line and made his only free throw attempt.
"He's been solid," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Berggren. "He's out there for a reason. He's getting better. He's learning each and every game how to read defenses. … He's also finding people, too, at times. He's getting better as a player and that's what we like to see."
After scoring in double figures once during 48 games his first two seasons, Berggren, an everyday starter for the first time in his collegiate career, has scored in double digits eight times this season and leads the Badgers in scoring (12.3) and steals (19) and is second on the team in blocks (16) and tied for second on the team in rebounding (5.0).
"The last two games I have shot the ball pretty well," said Berggren. "There was some post moves today that were kind of questionable … but overall, I was hitting some shots and it's been pretty good the last two games."
It wasn't quite the 17-0 run Wisconsin used to open the game the last time these two teams played in 2007, but another hot start set the tempo, as UW hit six of their first seven shot and forced six turnovers in a 16-4 run in the game's first six minutes.
As was the case many times before, Jordan Taylor was the catalyst, scoring four points, dishing out three assists, registering one steal and committing no turnovers during the run. After falling to shoot 50 percent or better in the last eight games, Taylor finished with 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting.
"No matter the circumstances, we have to try to come out with energy," said Taylor. "It doesn't. You have to find a way to do it."
The lead kept blossoming - ending up being 32-14 at halftime - because Wisconsin took advantage of a Tigers (4-8) squad with no player taller than 6-8 by getting a combined 18 points from post players Berggren and Evans, hitting 3 of 6 three-pointers and turning 11 turnovers into 15 points.
Wisconsin committed just three turnovers in the first half (seven overall), had a 24-4 edge in points off turnovers and held its fourth opponent to 33 points or less to improve the nation's best scoring defense to 44.7 points per game.
"That's pretty good, I think," said Gasser of the defense. "We don't really focus on that number but at the same time, it's a pretty impressive stat for us to hold our hats on."
Added Ryan: "I know our defense made them work to get a good shot. That's all you can ask for, no matter who the opponent is or what's going on."
Cedric Smith and Arnold Louis scored eight points to lead Savannah State, which fell to 1-7 on the road this season, 5-20 in its last 25 road appearance and 0-10 against Top 25 teams since joining Division I in 2002.
"It's just amazing how year in and year out (Ryan) produces way above average basketball program without the mega stars that you see at other programs," said Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax. "He's done a tremendous job. I am in awe of watching his program, although they beat us pretty bad tonight."
Rebounding nicely from its first regular season two game losing streak since January 2009, Wisconsin will sit on its four game winning streak for seven days to take its final exams and prepare for its final nonconference test Dec.23 against Mississippi Valley State before beginning Big Ten play at Nebraska Dec.27.
"We always look forward to the next game, the next opportunity to play, but we've got other things to take care of as student athletes," Berggren said. "We got other things to focus on and it's not like we're going to forget about basketball these next few days. We're going to take an opportunity to get healthy … and get ready for the next one."