The Secret Road Weapon

Every time he and his University of Wisconsin teammates head on the road, junior Ryan Evans feels the extra adrenaline pumping through his veins. On Tuesday in the Big Ten opener, Evans unleashed his best offensive explosion yet, scoring a career-high 22 points to lead No.11 Wisconsin to a 62-40 victory over Nebraska.

LINCOLN, NE - Etching out where the production was going to come from this season for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team, junior forward Ryan Evans' name was on the list, but certainly not among the top three.

The redshirt junior hasn't missed a game in three seasons, playing in all 80 he's been eligible for, but with scoring in double digits just eight times his first two seasons, Evans was going to be counted on for rebounding, blocks and overall team defense.

After 14 games, he's showing that he can be counted on for a lot more for No.11 Wisconsin.

With a career-high 22 points, Evans again found his niche away from the Kohl Center, proving to be the ultimate road warrior for the Badgers, who shook out of an early shooting funk to run away from Nebraska, 64-40, Tuesday in front of 10,812 fans at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

"I started inside and worked my way out," said Evans, who added a team-high six rebounds along with two assists, one steal and no turnovers. "I kind of got them with the okie doke."

To say Evans has been a surprise is putting it mildly. In Wisconsin's two toughest environments entering conference play, the redshirt junior has filled up the stat sheet, finishing with 10 points, a team-high seven rebounds and three blocks at No.5 North Carolina and finished with a then-career high 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks at Milwaukee.

It was evident that those performances are just a measure of foreshadowing. Registering his production with an efficient 9-of-11 from the floor, 2-of-3 from three-point range and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, Evans is averaging 13.2 points in five games on the road.

"I am more comfortable on the road," Evans said. "I get a little more adrenaline going because it's kind of like us against the world. I think it's fun to play on the road."

Added UW coach Bo Ryan of Evans: "He was open, he got himself open and he had some open looks. You always like that because it sends a message to the other teams that you are going to play that you can't play off him too much. That was very welcomed."

Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0 Big Ten) was caught on its heels early, allowing Nebraska to score the game's first seven points, and let senior guard Toney McCray (team-high 16 points) get comfortable with eight points in the first five minutes. It was vastly different after that.

Wisconsin responded by unleashing a 22-5 run that was all about Evans and the perimeter game. Evans broke the seal for the Badgers with a jumper from the baseline and followed that with a layup, a defensive rebound and a three-pointer on three straight possessions.

The three-point shot became contagious from there, as Jared Berggren (six points) and Jordan Taylor (15 points) made back-to-back three-pointers to make the opening Nebraska (8-4, 0-1 Big Ten) run a memory, as UW never let the lead get smaller than five the rest of the game.

"We knew we had to withstand," said Evans. "There was going to be runs. This is the Big Ten conference now. We've played at Michigan State and Ohio State. We know how to withstand runs. We just kept on going, stuck to our rules and we prevailed."

Wisconsin shot 57.1 percent (12-of-21) from the floor and – after going just 4 for 10 from three-point range Friday – hit 5-of-9 three-pointers in the first half. The Badgers also hit all four of their free throws in a well-rounded first half, but the real nod of approval came in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

After Berggren picked up two fouls in the first 21 seconds, the Badgers went on a 19-5 run thanks to a three-pointer by Taylor as the shot clock expired, seven points from Evans and six points from sophomore Ben Brust, who scored all nine of his points after halftime and delivered the ultimate hustle play when he got back on defense following a Taylor turnover and drew a charge on Bo Spencer.

It was just another chapter in an awful day for Spencer, who entered the game as Nebraska's leading scorer at 16.0 points per game but was held to five points on 2-of-12 shooting.

"Anytime you can get runs like that in a game, they are big if you can get substantial runs like that," said Taylor, as Wisconsin shot 51.1 percent from the floor and 52.4 percent from 3-point range overall. "(Our guys) hit them when they count. We have a lot of weapons like that and a lot of different weapons that we've been talking about all year."

But as good as the offensive balance was, the big nod once again was given to Wisconsin's defense. Holding their 18th straight opponent to 65 points or less, the longest streak in the nation, the Badgers held their 12th opponent to a new season low in points, as Nebraska fell 11 points short of its previous low of 51 points.

"They went and executed their stuff," said Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel. "They executed the crap out of it."

The victory allowed Wisconsin to again pull the welcome mat out from underneath the Cornhuskers. After the football team beat the Blackshirts, 48-17, in the Cornhuskers inaugural Big Ten conference game, Wisconsin spoiled a video message from video commissioner Jim Delaney welcoming Nebraska to the league and the school welcoming back 31 former players to celebrate the occasion.

When it was over, it was the Badgers who celebrated its ninth straight victory in a conference opener.


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