Meeting Expectations

Outsiders may be surprised that No.4 Wisconsin is going into Big Ten play a perfect 13-0, a mark they achieved with a 80-43 whipping of Prairie View A&M Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center, but nobody is surprised inside UW's locker room, especially not after a well-executed performance despite a two-week layoff.

MADISON - After a two weeks break, the University of Wisconsin showed no signs of rust with its Big Ten conference opener looming on the horizon.

Sam Dekker scored a game-high 16 points and hauled in a game-best 11 rebounds as fourth-ranked Badgers cruised over struggling Prairie View A&M, 80-43, Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center.

Ben Brust (11), Nigel Hayes (10) and Frank Kaminsky (10) also reached double figures for Wisconsin (13-0), which goes into the conference opener (Jan.2 at Northwestern) undefeated for the first time since 1993 after getting back into the swing of things in a game that was never close after the opening minutes.

"Going 13-0 was an expectation us, just like we expect to win a Big Ten championship," Kaminsky said. "We'll do everything we can to get that."

After winning seven games by 10 points of less through the first two months of the season, Wisconsin jumped out to a 7-0 lead and continued cruising. Seven different players scored in the first seven minutes as the Badgers lead by as many as 17 points in the first half and were rarely threatened.

While the Badgers eventually saw their shooting percentage taper off to 43.1 percent, Wisconsin finished with two turnovers in 57 possessions, including none in 32 possessions in the second half.

"There was a little rust I thought early," said associate head coach Greg Gard, "but for a game that the score got a little lopsided, and the first game in two weeks where sometimes you get a little out of sync, I thought our guys did a good job staying focused, discipline and staying to what we've been about for the first 12 games."

In a nonconference schedule that featured 12 teams that posted a 92-37 record in all other games, the Panthers (2-10) were the only sub.500 team UW faced, and it showed with a lack of size on the interior.

When Prairie View A&M went zone to try to slow UW down, Wisconsin took advantage with perimeter shooter or driving to the bucket, which is what Dekker did with a perimeter spin move and a one-handed flush.

That would have been the highlight of the afternoon, had Dekker not slammed home another one-handed dunk in transition off an alley-oop pass from Hayes in the second half.

"He's so long, so he can reach out with those wings and grab it," said Gard. "He found a way to reach, grab and finish all in one motion."

For the second straight game, Hayes took advantage of his distinct size advantage by driving into the paint, drawing fouls and making his free throws. After going 10-for-21 from the line in the first 11 games, Hayes went 6-for-9 from the line and is 19-for-26 over the last two games.

Hayes also added four rebounds, three blocks, two steals, one assist and took a charge.

"Getting better and better," said Gard. "Each trip up and down the floor, each media timeout, you can start to see him figure out more and more things."

In the first half, Wisconsin had as many offensive rebounds as the Panthers had total rebounds (8) and Montrael Scott, Prairie View A&M's leading scorer, was held scoreless in the first half, perhaps weary from the Panthers playing a ninth straight road game.

He finished with 14 points leading the Panthers, but shooting 5-for-12 from the floor with Josh Gasser guarding him as the visitors finished 17-for-52 (32.7 percent).

"(Josh) is our glue," said Gard. "Why are we 13-0? How are we 13-0? I think you have to start with Josh and just his re-emergence, his return to our locker room. Having him back has meant the world."

Off to its best overall start since 1913, Wisconsin now moves into phase two of winning its first conference title since 2008.

"It's become more competitive because now you are fighting for a league title," said Gard. "That's goal number one each and every year to win the Big Ten. Obviously the 13 are great that we have now, but they don't mean anything if you don't take care of what's coming next."


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