Coming off of one of its best shooting performances in school history (63.8 percent from the field), Wisconsin picked up right where it left off by hitting 52.6 percent of its shots (30-for-57), the eighth time this season the Badgers finished a game shooting over 50 percent.
The Badgers started quickly on offense - making 7-for-10 shots to build a 13-point lead eight minutes into the game. The Badgers were able to do a little bit of everything from scoring inside and from the perimeter, regardless of if Northwestern was playing man-to-man or zone.
It also helped that starting Northwestern center Alex Olah picked up two quick fouls within the first four minutes of the game, which opened up the paint for Wisconsin in the first half. It got so bad that Northwestern coach Chris Collins put Olah back into the game in the first half to try and stop the bleeding.
Even with Olah out, the Badgers didn’t always need to use the paint to build their lead, as Wisconsin was able to make the six of its first seven shots from three. Sam Dekker made four of them with Josh Gasser and Duje Dukan hitting the other two, as Wisconsin finished the game a season-high 12-for-25 (48 percent) from 3-point range.
Dekker in particular was feeling it from 3-point range, leading him to a 16-point outing. Dekker was able to get open either due to screens or him creating space between himself and the defender before he was able to knock down the shot.
Outside of Dekker finishing in double digits, three other Wisconsin players accomplished the same feat. Frank Kaminsky tied with Dekker in points, 11 of which came in the second half. Nigel Hayes had 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field, and Duje Dukan had a season-high 14 points off the bench in 23 minutes of work.
UW’s defense was able to put on another solid defensive performance by holding Northwestern – averaging 64.8 points and shooting 42.9 percent from the field – to 58 points and 39.3 percent (24-for-61) from the field.
The large lead in the caused Wisconsin to have some mental lapses in the second half by allowing too many backdoor cuts for easy lay ups or giving up position down low, where either Alex Olah or Jeremiah Kreisberg could back it down or use a post move. Northwestern finished the game with 24 points in the paint. Olah finished the game with seven points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field and Kreisberg recorded a season-high four points off the bench.
Despite the minimal gaffes, there are still plenty of positives to take away from the performance, including Wisconsin forcing nine Northwestern turnovers. Despite not reaching the average 12.3 turnovers a game by Badgers opponents, the UW guards did play well against freshman guard Bryant McIntosh, who committed four turnovers.
With Wisconsin forcing McIntosh into mistakes, it prevented him from playing into one of his strengths of finding the open teammate. Averaging 4.9 assists per game, Wisconsin held McIntosh to one assist. Northwestern finished the game with 16 assists to nine turnovers.
Tre Demps led Northwestern in scoring with 17 points – his third straight game in double figures - on 7-for-14 shooting, while McIntosh finished with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
It was another efficient and impressive offensive effort by Wisconsin, once again finding ways to start the game off hot, take control of game early and never let up in building a lead as big as 28 points. The first half was worked to perfection with Wisconsin shooting 53.6 percent from the field and the defense holding Northwestern to only three assists on 28 shot attempts.
The trio of Dekker, Hayes, and Kaminsky all had their moments in which they helped Wisconsin build its lead. Kaminsky scored five of the Badgers’ first eight points, not to mention that he also registered six rebounds and five assists in the first half. Kaminsky finished the game with a career-high six assists. Hayes scored eight straight points to close out the first half before Josh Gasser hit a three, as Gasser (3-for-6 from 3-point range) finished the game with nine points.
Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 37-32, but most impressively limited any Northwestern second-chance opportunities. Off of 37 missed shots, the Wildcats were only able to collect nine offensive rebounds, leading to 15 second-chance points. Kaminsky led Wisconsin with 10 rebounds – his seven double-double of the season and third in a row.
The Badgers’ bench had a nice game with Dukan scoring 14 of the 22 points. Bronson Koenig had six points on 2-for-4 shooting, and Zak Showalter had the other two points on a pair of free throws. Dukan was impressive with his ability to get in a rhythm early and find a way to get open or create shots for himself. Dukan shooting well from the perimeter helped create lanes for himself at times that he used for an effective crossover to drive to the rim and draw fouls. Overall Wisconsin went 9-for-15 (60 percent) from the free throw line.
Game MVP: Sam Dekker. The key in Wisconsin building its lead early, Dekker hit his first four 3-pointers of the game, hitting wide-open or contested shots. This is Dekker’s sixth straight game in which he has reached double digits, averaging 15.7 points over that stretch. Dekker also finished second in the game to Kaminsky with seven rebounds (two offensive) and had two assists and one block. From start to finish Dekker was aggressive with the ball in his hands trying to find a shot for himself or an open teammate and it paid dividends for Wisconsin.