Badgers send Pacific out to Sea

In their first game since their triumph over Pitt, Wisconsin uses a 16-2 run in the first half and a 23-6 run in the second half to cruise by Pacific.

MADISON, Wis. – After a week off to soak in their victory over No.2 Pittsburgh and time to study for final exams, it would be understandable if the Badgers were a little rusty coming out of the starting gates.

Their first seven possessions however, showed no sign of sluggishness.

Wisconsin (12-1) scored on their first seven trips down the floor, building a 16-2 lead in the process, and turned in a solid team effort as they blew out Pacific (3-9) 83-47 at the Kohl Center.

While the victory won't go down as one of the prettiest games this season, the Badgers stuck to their M.O. against the Tigers, building a 12-point halftime lead by routinely getting to the free throw line. For the tenth game this season, Wisconsin made more free throws than their opponents attempted, as the Badgers knocked down 26 of 32 of the evening compared to only 11 attempts by Pacific.

"Any team Rick Barry would have played on would be happy with that percentage," head coach Bo Ryan said. "They executed and got things done."

Although having a double-digit lead heading into the locker room, the Badgers were far from perfect in the game's first half. After shooting close to 50 percent in the game's first 20 minutes, Wisconsin was 3-for-13 from the floor in the final eight minutes. The Badgers' meager shooting combined with Steffan Johnson's 12 points kept the Tigers within striking distance.

"Steffan came off the bench last year as a freshman and did a great job," Pacific head coach Bob Thomason said. "He's had some great moments, but he hasn't had consistency. The best stat he had was that he had no turnovers tonight. He just needs to keep learning and keep on getting better, but he did a nice job tonight."

Johnson shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, including making two NBA range three-pointers, and finished with a team-high 16 points. Even so, Wisconsin's victory wouldn't be decided until midway through the second half.

With Pacific closing the Badger lead to 10 with 16 minutes to go, Wisconsin keyed a 23-6 run to give the Badgers a 27-point working margin. The run was punctuated with a steal and thunderous breakaway dunk by Brian Butch.

Defending Pacific's Ben Pemberton near midcourt, Butch jumped the passing lane, poked the ball away and rumbled down the court. With ball in hand, Butch was able to beat Pemberton to the basket and slammed home a slow-motion dunk for two of his 11 points, prompting Pacific to use a 30 second timeout.

"Somebody said that he got a 10-second violation after he stole the ball," Ryan said. "It was a great play. He actually separated from the guy behind him. That was good stuff."

"It looked like slow motion to me," Alando Tucker joked. "We were counting his steps like the students do. You know, left, right, left, right. I thought they were going to do that to Brian on that dunk."

With no Badger going on a scoring binge during the streak, it was the Badger defense that gave Wisconsin the boost. Over that eight minute stretch, Wisconsin didn't allow any second chance points, grabbing seven defensive rebounds in the process.

With All-American candidate Alando Tucker having an off-night offensively (scoring only 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting), the Badgers were lead by fellow senior Kammron Taylor. Taylor, who hadn't lead the Badgers in scoring since the game against Florida International, turned in a solid shooting night all over the floor, connecting from the paint, the wing and the perimeter for 17 points.

For the season, Taylor is now shooting over 50 percent from three-point range after connecting on 3 of 4 three pointers against Pacific.

"I am not playing as many minutes as last year, so I am not getting tired as fast," Taylor said. "We have a lot of depth in the back court and my teammates are doing a good job of finding me when I am open. It's just a matter of me knocking shots down."

Wisconsin also got solid production from their two young guards with Jason Bohannon scored six points and Trevon Hughes added four, as the two combined for 27 minutes on Saturday night.

Wisconsin also continued their trend of dominating the paint, with the Badgers out-scoring the smaller Tigers 28 to 10 on the evening.

"There were times when we hung in there, but it didn't seem we ever had command," Thomason said. "We were doing a poor job scoring inside. We'll give them credit for that."

With the victory, Wisconsin moves to 12-1 before the holiday break and has tomorrow and Monday morning off to celebrate the holidays. Even more important, the Badgers avoided the post-exam flop and put together one of their more solid team efforts of the season.

"We came out playing real well because we had that senior leadership all week in practice," Taylor said. "Having that week off and taking finals, a lot of teams have that let down. We had that let down last year [against North Dakota State] and we didn't want to go through that again."

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

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