Badgers connect on all cylinders

Wisconsin works inside-outside game to perfection in 76-62 win over Alabama

MADISON — As the saying goes, you live by the three, you die by the three, and Wednesday night the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team rode their 3-point shooting all the way to a convincing wire-to-wire 76-62 win over No. 18 Alabama.

With a season-high six players connecting from long range in the game, Wisconsin made 11 of 22 attempts from beyond the arc, led by senior guard Sharif Chambliss and sophomore forward Alando Tucker, who connected on three apiece.

From the start, the Badgers were able to create a successful inside-outside mix offensively to keep the Crimson Tide off guard. Using penetration into the paint and also a strong post presence, Wisconsin was able to force Alabama to collapse in the lane, leaving guys open around the perimeter for jumpers.

"When the ball got in the post, they liked to sag off, so the three was an option," Tucker said. "Tonight, that's what we wanted to do, work our inside-outside game. When our inside game scores, teams are going to have to sag in and play … that's when you have to knock down outside shots."

Alabama consistently double-teamed Tucker and senior forward Wilkinson anytime they had the ball down low in the first half. When that happened, Tucker especially was able to kick out to the perimeter and find his teammates. He finished with a career-high five assists in the game.

After seeing Wisconsin's ability to knock down 6 of 11 triples in the first half, Alabama elected to go one-one-one in the post often times in the second half, in an effort to keep cover up the shooters on the perimeter. But when that happened, the Badgers used their footwork and finesse to beat the Crimson Tide in the paint.

"When guys are knocking down threes, it opens up the inside game and when guys are scoring, it opens up the three," Wilkinson said. "It was kind of back and forth like that all night for us. Everything balances itself out."

It is the second time this season the Badgers have connected on 11 3-pointers in one game. Wisconsin also shot better than 50 percent from beyond the arc in a contest for the second time this season.

Defensive dominance

In addition to a strong offensive night, Wisconsin boasted a blistering defense Wednesday night that shutdown a high-powered Alabama attack averaging 86.5 points per game coming into the match up.

Holding the Crimson Tide to 24 points below their season average, the Badgers completely dominated ‘Bama's top scorer, senior Earnest Shelton, thanks to a standout performance from UW senior Clayton Hanson. Hanson played arguably the best defensive game of his career as he hounded Shelton all over the floor all night long.

Shelton entered the game averaging 19.0 points per game, but Hanson and others teamed to shutout the SEC's co-leading scorer until 3:11 remaining in the game.

"They did a nice job," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. "That was very uncharacteristic for Earnest. He didn't get a lot of good looks at the basket. They did a nice job of taking some things away that we try to run for Earnest. We haven't had very many nights where he has had two points, in his career really. They guarded him as good as anybody has."

For the game, Shelton was held to two points on 1 of 5 shooting in 30 minutes.

"Defensively, playing a guy like Shelton, the job Clay did, the help from Kam and Ray, that was good," UW head coach Bo Ryan said.

Stepping up in the clutch

In addition to strong performances from Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson, senior Zach Morley played one of his best games as Badger, scoring 13 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots in 27 minutes.

Despite missing his first two shots of the game, Morley settled into a groove and connected on four of his next five shots to give UW a solid third option.

After Alabama cut Wisconsin's lead to five with 1:13 remaining in the first half, Morley tallied two field goals and scored five points in the final minute to give the Badgers an important 10-point lead going into intermission.

"It was very important to knock those down," Morley said. "[On the 3-point shot] my guy helped off and left me open and I was able to knock it down and the second one, we had to force out and it didn't quite work as well as we wanted to, but I was fortunate enough to get a shot off and get it to go in, and it gave us a little momentum going into halftime."

Keeping it clean

For the second straight contest, the Badgers were able to keep their turnovers under 10 — a big improvement from the start of non-conference play when Wisconsin was averaging 14 turnovers per game over its first six contests.

Versus Alabama, UW only coughed up the ball five times (a season low), but more importantly forced 10 turnovers on the Crimson Tide side.

In the all-important assist-to-turnover ratio, the Badgers were 15 to 5 in the game, also their best ratio on the season.

"When you can go 15-5 against an Alabama, that's a good end to the non-conference," Ryan said. "What's going to happen in the next one … at Purdue … that's another challenge we'll have to get ready for."

Total team effort

For the first time all season, all 15 eligible members of the Wisconsin team were suited up and ready for the game. While only nine got into the game, those players each contributed in some way to the win.

Even though the starters combined for 65 of the Badgers' 76 points, everyone off the bench scored in the game, including four points from senior center Andreas Helmigk, three from junior forward Ray Nixon, two from sophomore guard Kammron Taylor and two from freshman center Brian Butch.

After missing the last game with a sickness, Nixon played a very strong game for the Badgers, primarily on the defensive end of the court. Much of his 14 minutes were to give senior Clayton Hanson a breather and they were extremely well played in keeping Alabama's Earnest Shelton off the scoreboard.

Quote of the evening

"I always figure if I put these glasses on you'll ask a lot smarter questions. Gives you that look."

— Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who wore glasses to Wednesday's press conference.

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