The Colonels left as just another victim of Wisconsin's hot shooting on its torrid stretch.
No.4 Wisconsin shot a season-high 60.5 percent from the floor to cruise to an 86-61 victory over Eastern Kentucky Saturday; setting a modern-era school record for consecutive wins to start the season.
"We've got a lot of different pieces, and it's all coming together," said senior Ben Brust, as UW is a perfect 12-for-12 for the first time since 1915-16.
Most of the Badgers' offensive leaders were as expected. Three days after bemoaning his second-half shooting, senior Ben Brust scored 11 of his 20 points in the first seven minutes after halftime, including three 3-pointers, to help UW also shoot a season-high-tying 60 percent from 3-point range (9 of 15).
Sam Dekker finish with 16 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor in the first half, and junior Frank Kaminsky, a game-time decision with a right foot injury, added 13 points in 24 minutes of work. The surprise performance came from true freshman Nigel Hayes.
Hayes scored a career-high 17 points (in just 14 minutes of work) and did most of his damage from the free throw line. Attempting 21 free throws through his first 11 games, Hayes utilized his size advantage in the low post by getting to the free throw line nine separate times. Shooting 17 free throws, Hayes made 13.
One of the prized recruits in Wisconsin's 2013 signing class, Hayes bumped his scoring average from 4.0 to 5.1, crediting his performance to assistant coach Lamont Paris' post work with him and his guards beating Eastern Kentucky's pressure.
"I was able to slip in underneath the defense and if I caught it, I got fouled," said Hayes. "As far as going to the free throw line, I had been working on my mechanics with coach Close … It paid dividends today in the game."
"He got us out of a lot of jams," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Koenig. "He found open people … There aren't too many people who can break down what they do defensively the way he did."
After utilizing a pair of 10-0 runs Wednesday to put away Milwaukee, Wisconsin used another 10-0 spurt to make its move. Down 8-7, Brust hit a pair of 3-pointers and saw Kaminsky add four points on the next two possessions.
The run eventually swelled to 21-3 thanks to Dekker scoring seven and Hayes going 5-for-6 from the free throw line, not to mention the Badgers holding Eastern Kentucky (7-4) to 1-for-9 from the floor and forcing five turnovers.
"I thought we did a pretty good job taking care of the ball," said Koenig, as Wisconsin finished with 11 turnovers. "Since they were pressuring so much, just getting by them and spreading the ball around to open players. They were helping off in the lane so much, so we'd just kick it to the open guy on the other side."
Eastern Kentucky attempted nearly as many 3-pointers (268) as field goals from inside the arc (278), but the Badgers perimeter defense held the Colonels to 4-for-19 (21.1 percent) from the outside, forcing them to take most of their 58 attempts inside the arc where UW had a distinct size advantage.
Led by senior guard Glenn Cosey's 21 points, the Colonels also were fourth in the nation with 11.1 steals per game, but managed only seven against Wisconsin, including only one in the first half.
"They are incredibly efficient as the offensive end and their defense is as disciplined as a defense as I've ever seen," said Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer. "Our team has really competed in this type of venue, but we've never run across a team like that."
Ryan acknowledged that he saw a talented Eastern Kentucky group after watching the DVD earlier this week. The Colonels led by 14 at VCU this season and by 10 at North Carolina State, but couldn't close. Winning 25 games a year ago, Eastern Kentucky led late at West Virginia and were competitive at then-No.10 Illinois by creating a lot of problems with the mixing of defenses.
That scheme didn't seem to bother Wisconsin, which finished the first half 12 of 19 from the floor, 3 of 5 from 3-point range, 15 of 20 from the free throw and were plus-11 on the boards.
"If you don't (take advantage), then they just eat you up," said Ryan.
With finals next week and the Christmas holiday the following week, Wisconsin will be off for two weeks before its final nonconference test against Prairie View A&M.
"When the time comes to prepare for the next team, we'll get right after it just like we've done the past 12 games," said Brust.