Duke took a ton of threes and, to make matters worse, made an incredibly high percentage of them. In fact, their impressive attack from long range basically put the game out of reach late in the first half. The Blue Devils made 9-of-16 three-pointers for an incredible 56 percent in the game's first 20 minutes.
"(Wisconsin) plays more of a top-of-the-key defense, so we thought if we could set our screens a little better, we would get some open looks," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Blue Devils did just that, as Wisconsin should have made the game much closer than it ended up being. Wisconsin's strength is controlling the time of possession and limiting the opponent's opportunities. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in opponent scoring with 45 points per game and a low 26 percent from three-point range.
Yet, Duke historically has been able to combat a team's best efforts. They rank second in the ACC in points scored with just over 87 points per game and incredible 42 percent for three-point shooting percentage.
"The three should be a huge weapon for us. We practice it and play it," said Krzyzewski. "We have to try and make it more of a perimeter game. We were able to do that a lot and that's why we won."
Yet, with Duke leading 48-25 at intermission, the game was already well out-of-hand. Duke outplayed Wisconsin in other parts of the game during the first half, but clearly the long-range shots were the reason for the nearly impossible comeback.
Duke set the tone early by quickly hitting two open three-point shots, following with several more that opened up an eight-point lead.
Later in the first half, Duke pushed the lead to 25-14 with several consecutive open three-pointers. In fact, with only six minutes left, Duke had taken a 36-18 lead that created a sense of doubt in Wisconsin's ability to stop these streaks.
"Those spurts hurt our psyche," said Badger Head Coach Bo Ryan. "When you're out there on the court, a lot of things go through your mind when you've played out there in tough environments. Some guys need a wake up call."
That wake up call must have taken place at halftime because the Badgers defended the perimeter much better in the second half. Duke was only able to outscore Wisconsin by one after halftime and hit only 2-for-8 from three-point range in the second half.
Yet, the reason Wisconsin was down by so much at half was the balance that Duke has on offensive. With five players averaging double figures in scoring and shooting above 50 percent from the field, the Badgers couldn't just gameplan around a few key players.
Duke's system is built around allowing several players to contribute to the offense, which most certainly played a part in the failure of the Badgers to recover from the early deficit.
"When I'm feeling it and getting in a groove, then I'm going to let it go," said Duke freshman Taylor King, who went 5-for-9 from three-point range. "A couple of the shots I took today weren't the best shots – pretty far out – but I'm used to talking those shots."
On many plays, the Badgers weren't even able to get within five feet of Duke's three-point shots being launched. The threes took Wisconsin out of the game and killed all momentum.
Add that to Wisconsin playing in a hostile environment, against a team with yearly championship aspirations, winners of 54 consecutive non-conference home games and one of the best coaches in the history of the sport; the game clearly was going to be difficult.
"You see a 10-point difference, a 15-point difference. Can you make it back in possession? No, but that totally affected the mode of play that we got into when they hit the one run and we're playing from behind," said Ryan. "When you're playing down in a hole like that it's almost impossible in a place like this to come back."
With the inability to contest three-point shots, winning consistently does not seem possible either.