Breakdown: No.4 Wisconsin at Northwestern

After staying perfect through the nonconference season, No.4 Wisconsin is looking to carry that momentum into the start of Big Ten play when it travels down to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern Thursday night. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.4 Wisconsin (13-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Northwestern (7-6, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Thursday, January 2, 6 p.m. Central

Arena – Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)

Television -ESPN2 (Mike Crispino and Dan Dakich)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 111-61 (Northwestern leads 39-38 in Evanston)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 69-41, on February 20, 2013 in Evanston

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.7 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 14.5 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.0 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 14.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 5.5 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 3.8 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.8 ppg)

Northwestern Probable Starters

1 Drew Crawford (6-5 Senior Forward, 16.4 ppg)

3 David Sobolewski (6-1 Junior Guard, 7.8 ppg)

15 James Montgomery III (6-4 Senior Guard, 0.6 ppg)

22 Alex Olah (7-0 Sophomore Center, 8.0 ppg)

34 Sanjay Lumpkin (6-5 Freshman Forward, 4.9 ppg)

Off the Bench

13 Kale Abrahamson (6-7 Sophomore Forward, 4.1 ppg)

14 Tre Demps (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 11.0 ppg)

23 Jershon Cobb (6-5 Junior Guard, 12.6 ppg)

32 Nathan Taphorn (6-7 Freshman Forward, 3.8 ppg)

Last Time Out

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.

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.

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.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

EVANSTON, Ill. - Five players scored at least eight points, including 12 points and eight rebounds each from Jared Berggren and Ben Brust, as Wisconsin (19-8, 10-4 Big Ten) shot 46.0 percent from the floor to clinch a winning conference record for the 13th straight season, the second-longest streak among the six major conferences.

Freshman Sam Dekker scored 10 on 4-for-5 shooting while Frank Kaminsky and Jackson added eight, as Wisconsin earned its biggest road victory of the season by whipping and throttling Northwestern (13-14, 4-10) for the sixth straight time. It was a game that was over quickly, much to the delight of the 7,011 fans that were mostly decked in red.

In much the same dominance Wisconsin exerted in the first half Sunday against Ohio State, unleashing an 18-0 run to bury the Buckeyes, the Badgers' 9-0 start to open the game set the tone for what was a one-sided affair.

"I said it in the huddle we got to make sure we step on their throats early, can't let them hang around," said senior Mike Bruesewitz. "If we do, it was going to be a dog fight."

With the Wildcats not having any player over 6-8 in its starting lineup, Wisconsin's height advantage allowed Berggren to score eight of UW's 28 points in the paint and the Badgers to get 16 second-chance points off 15 offensive rebounds. Jackson said the emphasis from the start was to attack the post, and his five assists to one turnover was part of the offense's catalyst.

The work on the glass echoed that physicality, outrebounded Northwestern 47-22 overall, including a 23-8 margin in the first half. In the first 20 minutes, Wisconsin held the Wildcats without a single second-chance point or basket in the paint.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

The Badgers have won six straight over the Wildcats by an average of 18.7 points per game. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by 20+ points.

The Badgers have won 11 of the last 12 match-ups overall against the Wildcats.

Ryan is 16-4 all-time vs. Northwestern. The Badgers have won 5 of their last 6 trips to Evanston, owning a 6-4 record at Welsh-Ryan Arena under Ryan.

UW has out-rebounded NU in 12 straight games, by an average of 12.8 per game.

UW has two players from the Chicagoland area in Brust and Kamisnky. Kaminsky and NU's Dave Sobolewski were high school teammates at Benet Academy in the Chicago area.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin has won each of its last 10 Big Ten openers, including a 60-51 win over Penn State in the conference lid lifter last season. The Badgers' 10 consecutive Big Ten-opening wins have come by an average of 17.1 points per game.

UW is one of just 3 teams in college basketball that have won each of their last 10 conference openers, joining Kansas and Gonzaga.

Ryan's teams have won 8 of 12 Big Ten road openers, however, the Badgers have won 8 of their last 9 road conference openers.

A year after averaging 4.2 points in 10.3 minutes per game, Kaminsky is among the Big Ten's top 20 in both scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.8 rpg). Kaminsky is the owner of the 2nd-highest single-game scoring effort in Div. I this season with 43 points vs. North Dakota.

The all-time best start in school history belongs to the 1911-12 and 1913-14 Badgers teams that both finished 15-0 on the season and were later named Helms Foundation National Champions.

Wisconsin's 13-game win streak is the team's 2nd-longest win streak in the modern era. Bo Ryan was also the coach of UW's longest modern-era win streak, 17 straight in 2006-07. In fact, Ryan-coached teams as are responsible for 4 of the 6 longest streaks in Badgers history.

Wisconsin and Ohio State are both off to 13-0 starts, becoming the 6th and 7th Big Ten teams to open the season 13-0 or better since 2001-02.

Northwestern Notes

Northwestern's defense has been stingy against the opposition as it heads into Big Ten play. The Wildcats have held their last four opponents to a combined 32.9 percent shooting from the field and 21.1 percent from 3-point range. Each of the four foes shot below 37 percent for the game. NU has held seven teams below 37 percent shooting already this season.

Crawford is the Big Ten's active leading scorer with 1,615 career points. The total ranks fifth in school history and is 74 points behind Michael Thompson (2008-11) for fourth place. Crawford missed most of last season due to injury and returned to the Northwestern lineup with a vengeance in the season-opener against Eastern Illinois, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 25 points.

Tre Demps has provided Northwestern with some scoring punch off the bench so far this season. The redshirt sophomore is averaging 11.0 points per game, including scoring in double figures eight times in the team's 13 games.

Prediction

Continuing its hottest opening-season stretch in school history, Wisconsin has shown much more toughness in the early parts of this season than the year before, evident by the Badgers muscling their way past a Marquette and Virginia team that took them to the cleaners a year ago.

What's the reason?

"Josh Gasser," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. "He's a leader."

There's no debating that Gasser has brought back the toughness to Wisconsin after spending last season watching from the sidelines, the victim of a freak ACL tear before the start of fall camp. Without him, the Badgers were missing a player who was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team and ranked second in the Big Ten shooting 45.2 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

They aren't missing him now. Not only does the junior rank 12th in the conference in shooting from 3-point range (40.6 percent) and third in the league in free throws (86.3 percent), he's brought back that defense, which is more valuable that his points per game average.

In Wisconsin's win at Virginia, Gasser guarded Preseason All-ACC pick and leading scorer Joe Harris all night and limited him to 2 points on 1-for-10 shooting in 33 minutes. Harris scored 22 against UW last year while Gasser was redshirting.

Gasser then guarded Marquette's Jake Thomas and held him without a shot attempt in the 25 minutes he was on him. Thomas entered averaging 7.2 shot attempts per game.

As a result, UW's defense has picked up over the last half of the nonconference season.

"The guys saw what he went through last year and you can't tell me there's a guy in that locker room who didn't take notice of the hours and the discipline and all the work Josh put in," said Ryan. "He didn't miss anything. Always encouraging the guys last year through the spring, through the summer … We've got some other guys out there who have a lot of grit, but you have to start somewhere. That's where it starts."

The Big Ten is going to be tough this year, as it always is, but tonight's matchup is against two teams headed in different directions. Wisconsin is rolling under Ryan and priming itself for its first Big Ten title since 2008. Northwestern has the most losses through the nonconference season of any Big Ten team, as former Duke assistant Chris Collins has his work cut off for him as he tries to change the culture of a basketball program that has never made the NCAA tournament.

UW always seems to struggle in the funky environment that is Welsh-Ryan Arena, but this Badgers team has enough firepower to win this game by a comfortable 24 points.

Worgull's Record: 10-3

Points off Prediction: 105 (8.1 per game)


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