Perimeter shooting, strong defense lead Badgers

Wisconsin ties a season high with 10 three pointers and holds Indiana to 29 percent shooting

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Mike Wilkinson and Indiana had something in common at the end of the first half Tuesday: they each had 15 points.


Wilkinson, junior guard Devin Harris and sophomore forward Andreas Helmigk shined for Wisconsin, while the Hoosiers just plain struggled. The Badgers (10-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) sent the Hoosiers packing, 79-45, in the Big Ten opener for both teams. Indiana fell to 6-6 overall.


Wilkinson hit 4 of 6 three-point attempts on his way to a game-high 20 points to go with 10 rebounds and a career-high five blocks.


All told, the Badgers made 10 of 23 from beyond the arc, using the Hoosiers' game plan against them.


"Unfortunately they made some shots," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "We wanted to force them to shoot the ball from the outside and they hit some really big shots against us. Wilkinson and Harris did a great job."


Wilkinson hit 3 of 4 from beyond the arc in the first half, while Harris, who during the game became the sixth UW junior in history to score 1,000 career points, knocked down 3 of 8 Tuesday on his way to 15 points. Harris also contributed nine assists with no turnovers.


Both teams struggled to make a shot early in the game and Indiana went scoreless the first four minutes, until Bracey Wright hit a jumper to bring the Hoosiers within 5-2.  Wisconsin dominated play throughout the game and broke away midway through the first half, leaving Indiana in the dust with a 15-0 run over four and a half minutes that propelled the Badgers to a 37-15 halftime lead.


"We may have scored the 15 on offense but for us to score the 15, we had to play pretty good defense during that stretch, too," said Wilkinson, who had eight points during the run. "Most of the time, when we get hot on offense, it's because of our defense…It's a great confidence boost to go on a run like that. You're knocking down shots, you're playing good defense, you're feeling good. You've just got to keep it up."


Offensively, Wisconsin had one of its best games all season, shooting 49.2 percent and making 78.6 percent of its free throws, as well as racking up 21 assists and a six-rebound advantage. Wilkinson and Helmigk provided a steady presence in the frontcourt, contributing 31 points and 13 rebounds combined, while their teammates provided constant support. Junior forward Zach Morley also reached double digits in scoring with 11 points off the bench, while Ray Nixon added eight, also in a reserve role. Wisconsin had a 36-point lead, the largest margin in the game, with one minute left.


"This is the best I've seen them play. If they play like this, they can run the table," Davis said. "Tonight, everything they did was flawless."


But where Wisconsin flourished, Indiana failed, shooting 29.1 percent and making only 2 of 11 three-point attempts. Sophomore guard Wright, who entered the game averaging 22.2 points per game and had a career-high 39 at North Texas Dec. 29, shot just 2-for-15 against Wisconsin.  


"Tonight, I struggled more than I ever have in my career," Wright said. "Going 2-for-15 is something that I'm not accustomed to; it's something that I'm not proud of."


Harris, though, has reason to be proud, as his 15 points propelled him past the 1,000-point milestone, a mark only 27 other UW players have broken in the program's history.


"It's something that comes along with being aggressive on offense," Harris said. "I guess I struggled as of late and in the first half and shots began to fall in the second half and it was just something that came along with the win."


"It's pretty good," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan added. "Points are great but Devin is a bright young man and he knows there's a lot more that goes with the points."

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