Men's hoops: Proud performance

Badgers trounce Indiana for a much-needed conference win

MADISON—Alando Tucker released a sigh of relief before answering the first question directed his way in Wednesday's post-game press conference. Whatever has been ailing the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team the last three weeks disappeared on this night. The Badgers dominated visiting No. 24 Indiana from the opening tip in running away with a 72-54 victory in a key Big Ten matchup.

"This feels good now," Tucker said, sporting an ear-to-ear grin. "It's like you (are) lifting some weights up off your back. Everybody's asking us about, like after every game it seemed… ‘How does it feel? What do you have to work on to get the job done? It seems like we finally put something together."

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for UW (16-7 overall, 6-4 Big Ten). The Badgers had lost five of six overall and two of three within the normally friendly confines of the Kohl Center before Wednesday's win.

"We've been down the last couple of games and to get a game at home going into this last stretch that we have, it's a relief," senior guard Ray Nixon said.

The Hoosiers (13-7, 5-4) have now lost four of their last five, heading into a Saturday tilt with first-place Iowa (18-6, 7-3).

Tucker, the Big Ten's leading scorer in conference play, was the catalyst for UW, with a game-high 29 points. Meanwhile, the Badgers did an impressive job denying Marco Killingsworth touches in the paint. The IU forward scored 14 points in just 20 minutes before fouling out with 8:16 left to play.

IU's vaunted perimeter shooters had plenty of open looks but struggled to knock them down, making just 3 of 16 (19 percent) from 3-point range as the Hoosiers shot 29 percent overall. Guard Marshal Strickland (12 points) and Killingsworth combined to make 9 of 18 shots, while the rest of IU was 7 of 38 (18 percent).

The Badgers shot 46 percent, their best single-game mark since shooting 52 percent in a win over Michigan State Jan. 8. UW never trailed and led by as many as 14 in the first half and 22 in the second half.

"We kept it so simple these past few days, but just to make sure that we're not missing anything on the fundamentals and the reads," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "I thought we got some pretty good looks and got the ball to go through. That's what we needed. Hopefully that confidence can carry on to the next one."

"Coming back from the Purdue game (Ryan) said everything's going back to the basics," said Tucker, referring to UW's 70-62 loss Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. "We have to just start back from scratch with everything… And just disregard the records or what's happened in the past."

Tucker made just one of his first five shots, but then erupted, connecting on nine of his next 10 field-goal attempts. After IU pulled to within 25-20 with 2:28 left in the first half, Tucker scored six unanswered points, as the Badgers took a 31-22 lead into halftime.

After scoring 11 points in the first half, Tucker scored 11 more in the opening six minutes of the second half, his driving bucket with 13:52 remaining giving the Badgers a commanding 47-29 lead.

IU never challenged from there, drawing no closer than 11 the rest of the way.

"I think they are hungry and ready to go after another one and keep playing," Ryan said of his team. "You can enjoy the moment, puts a smile on your face. But there's a lot to go here. So they're mature. They understand this is good. It's better than the other alternative. They'll enjoy it, but knowing that tomorrow's a regular day….

"Tomorrow won't be any different. They might walk back to their dorms with a little more of a smile than they have been. And that's OK. They earned it."

Wisconsin routed the Hoosiers despite an off shooting night from the team's second-leading scorer, point guard Kammron Taylor, who made 2 of 10 field goals and 1 of 7 three-pointers.

Each of Taylor's buckets came in the opening 1:24 of the game—he scored five straight points, hitting an elbow jumper and a 3 to give UW a quick 6-0 lead.

That helped the Badgers jump out to a 20-6 lead midway through the first half.

Walk-on freshman forward Kevin Gullikson earned a 3-point play to give UW a 14-6 lead, pulling down an offensive rebound and drawing a foul as he converted the put back.

Senior guard Ray Nixon, who contributed 13 points for UW, then knocked down two consecutive triples to give the Badgers' a 14-point advantage.

Indiana clawed back into the game, with a 10-0 run to close to within 20-16.

Wisconsin did not allow the Hoosiers to get any closer than that, with Tucker's late first-half scoring burst providing the Badgers with considerable momentum for their second-half rout.

A Tucker jumper made it 51-38 with 10:58 to play.

Fan favorite Tanner Bronson then blew the roof off the Kohl Center, swishing a triple from the right wing to elicit raucous cheers from a capacity crowd. Nixon's third 3 of the game followed shortly thereafter, effectively ending the game with 9:15 left.

"It's only just begun," Tucker said. "I don't want the guys to start thinking that we are going to just walk into games and get victories. The madness just starts. We go on the road—we still have to go to Michigan State and playing some tough road games. It's going to get tougher, but we have to be willing to accept that.

"But I definitely think this was a big win for us. Not only winning it, but in the manner that we won it was a great boost for our confidence."

The Badgers travel to Penn State (11-10, 3-7) Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip-off.

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