Badgers dominate second half, overpower UNCG

Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson combine for 41 points in 85-53 win over UNC Greensboro

MADISON – At game time Thursday evening, the mercury was hovering just a few degrees above zero. It was not much warmer inside the Kohl Center, where for the third consecutive home game the Badgers survived frigid early game shooting to come away with yet another home victory.

The 85-53 Wisconsin (7-2) win was its 34th consecutive at home, establishing a new school record.

Wisconsin sophomore forward Alando Tucker led all players with 21 points and 15 rebounds, flat-out overpowering the smaller UNC Greensboro front court.

UW senior forward Mike Wilkinson added 20 points and keyed an early second-half run that put the Badgers in command. His 10 first-half points helped Wisconsin wade through its chilly opening session shooting.

"Wilkinson was really the difference because when they were struggling against the zone he made a couple big moves in the first half, flashing into the high post," Spartan coach Fran McCaffrey said.

UNC Greensboro (6-3) led for stretches in the first half but could not take advantage of the Badgers' poor shooting. Wisconsin missed its first seven field goal attempts, made just six of its first 22 and was shooting 34 percent at halftime (11 of 32).

The Badgers deficient early game shooting was not because of a lack of opportunities. Wisconsin took advantage of the Spartans lack of size from the opening tip and pounded the ball inside, creating seams—both in the paint and along the perimeter—in a zone defense predicated on clogging the lane.

But Wisconsin could not hit near or far. UW made just 1 of 11 first-half 3-pointers and just 5 of 13 first-half layups, with countless additional tip-back attempts going awry.

"One of these nights we are going to finish, we are going to finish around the basket and somebody's in trouble if we start doing that," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

The Badgers dominance inside extended to a more than 4-to-1 edge in offensive rebounding, giving Wisconsin chance after chance to get its offense rolling. UNCG's only recourse, it seemed, was to foul, but the Badgers opened the game 1 of 12 from the charity stripe and hit 6 of 19 in the first half.

"We had great looks in the first half. We didn't finish them and when we got fouled we didn't get paid, as the saying goes," Ryan said.

Wisconsin had almost as many offensive rebounds (22) as the Spartans had total boards (23) and drew UNCG's season-high 21 fouls. All told the Badgers held a 50-23 rebounding edge.

"They really did a good job of blasting us on missed free throws," McCaffery said. "They did a good job of recognizing the fact that they weren't shooting the ball well. That's what the really good teams do.

"It just has a way of wearing you down. We just kept getting pushed underneath."

The Badgers stifling defense allowed them to outlast their offensive woes. The Spartans turned it over 20 times and were held to five offensive rebounds and 43 percent shooting, including an 0 for 8 on 3-pointers.

UNCG led 20-18 with five minutes left in the first half but Wisconsin finally made a few free throws. Tucker hit the second of two attempts and Wilkinson followed with a pair to give UW a 21-20 lead. The Spartans regained the lead, 22-21, but Wisconsin closed the first half with an 8-0 run to pull ahead 29-22.

"They jumped us a little bit and that really hurt our team," McCaffery said. "I think it gave them momentum. They settled down."

Wilkinson scored seven straight points—with a pair of 2s following a triple—to lead a 9-0 run early in the second half, giving the Badgers a 38-24 lead. UNCG never drew closer than 12 thereafter and trailed by as many as 36.

After struggling mightily in the first half, the Badgers made 64 percent of their shots in the second half. Tucker led the 56-point second-session outburst with 17 second-half points.

"Our looks in the second half were pretty good too," Ryan said. "We just shot them a little better."

For the game Tucker made 6 of 10 field goals, including 2 of 3 triples.

"Tucker's just a handful athletically. When he's making jumpers he's virtually unstoppable," McCaffery said. "We were more concerned with him posting up and driving to the basket. That's why we played so much zone."

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