Sophomore Alando Tucker scored 21 points and led four Badgers scoring in double-digits as Wisconsin blew out the Catamounts 89-49.
In Wisconsin's largest win of the year, the Badgers combined a blistering defense and an efficient, aggressive offense and improved its nation-leading and school-record home winning streak to 35 games.
Down 6-2 out of the gates, UW came out flat offensively and weak defensively in allowing the Catamounts to start 3 of 4 from the field on three consecutive transition layups.
However, after a missed jumper by Tucker, senior Sharif Chambliss single-handedly kick started the Badgers defensively by nabbing three steals on Western Carolina's next three possessions and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Wisconsin used this spark defensively to create momentum on offense and it was all over from there. The Badgers ripped off 38-14 run to close out the first half, building a 20-point edge, and never looked back en route to improving to 8-2 this season.
"They're they best team we've played," Western Carolina head coach Steve Schurina said. "They are one of the best defensive teams I've seen that every single shot that you take is contested and challenged. Wisconsin is just so good defensively, just so good. Nobody has really shot well in this place in any of the games this year … there is a reason for that. Because it's just so difficult to make shots against them."
Simply put, the Badgers just overmatched the Catamounts defensively. Wisconsin beat Western Carolina to spots, drew offensive fouls, dominated the glass and frustrated the Catamounts into primarily taking shots from the perimeter.
After Western Carolina's initial outburst, the Badgers disciplined defense found its form and eliminated any offensive consistency from the Catamounts. While building their lead, the Badgers forced 11 turnovers and only allowed 10 field goals over the first 20 minutes. In all, UW forced 21 turnovers, contained WCU to only 19 field goals and only allowed them to shoot 34.5 percent from the field in the game.
"They are so big inside that anytime you get the ball within eight feet of the basket, there is three guys on you every time," Schurina said. "And they are so big and long … [David] Berghoefer who had his way at Marquette and Alabama … he couldn't get near the basket and get any points tonight and that's their defense."
Wisconsin's defense held Western Carolina's leading scorer and Middleton native David Berghoefer to six points and 10 rebounds and only allowed one player to score double-figures in the contest — junior Jared Outing's 11 points.
UW's strong play defensively, specifically in the paint, is even more evident with the rebounding edge it carried for the second straight game. In the first half, the Badgers out-rebounded the Catamounts 28-16 and overall. For the game, UW had 53 rebounds (19 offensive) to Western Carolina's 33. In its last game, Wisconsin out-rebounded UNC Greensboro 50-23.
Tucker led the way Monday with 10 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games.
"We looked at film and saw we had a lot of opportunities to get in there and get a lot of second chance opportunities," Tucker said.
The Badgers did get a lot of second-chance opportunities and to their credit cashed in on many of them. Courtesy of hitting the glass aggressively on the offensive end of the court, UW grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, including six from Tucker, which translated into 26-second chance points on the game.
With all 14 players suited up getting into the game Wednesday night, the Badgers maintained this intensity on the glass and despite the frequent substituting, continued to add to the lead and never let Western Carolina get closer than 22 points in the second half.
The added depth only made the Badger offense more potent on a night where no matter who UW head coach Bo Ryan put on the floor, they seemed right in rhythm with everyone else and ready to contribute.
"No matter what combo we had out there on the court, I thought everybody played well together," Ryan said. "They did a pretty good job of helping one another, rotating and keeping Western Carolina from getting easy shots."
For the game, the Badgers shot 44.7 percent from the field, including 8-of-20 from downtown and 13-of-20 from the free throw line.
The Badgers built a 40-18 edge with 2:03 to go in the first half when junior Boo Wade entered the game for the first time this season. Wade played nine minutes in the game off the bench for UW and scored one point.
The Badgers next play host to Alabama Wednesday night at the Kohl Center. Tip off is at 6:30 p.m.