In what resembled a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition more than a Division I basketball game, Wisconsin improved to 6-1 with an 85-36 dismantling of New Hampshire Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.
Freddie Owens led the Badgers with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Kirk Penney finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Devin Harris hit 4-of-5 shots for 15 points, and Alando Tucker had 10 points and six rebounds.
The America East Conference opponent accepted the game in exchange for a guaranteed $45,000 payday. But the Badgers made the Wildcats earn their cash, treating them as little more than a sacrificial lamb.
While it became obvious shortly after the opening tip that New Hampshire would not be competitive, Coach Bo Ryan was defensive about the quality of the Badgers' opponent following the game.
"All I know is we just beat a state. It's not like we beat a part of a state. Northern Illinois is a part of a state," Ryan said. "All you guys want to do is belittle the opposition. I still don't understand that."
Having coached Division III basketball the majority of his career, Ryan took exception to the media questioning the talent level of the Wildcats.
"I always have respect for people, I have respect for programs, I have respect for coaches and what they're doing," Ryan said. "I don't take those kinds of potshots. I let (the media) do that."
After taking a 49-16 lead at halftime, the only thing left to be determined in the final 20 minutes was how many records the Badgers could break.
The 49-point dismantling was the largest winning margin in Kohl Center history, six points removed from the most lopsided victory in program history (a 55-point win over Denver in 1988).
Wisconsin also recorded 16 steals, including five from Boo Wade, which was an arena record and one shy of a program-best 17.
Wisconsin shot 54 percent from the field, while its stingy defense forced 25 New Hampshire turnovers and didn't allow any easy looks. New Hampshire hit just 15 field goals, shooting 31.9 percent from the floor. Ronnie Dennis scored one-third of the Wildcats' total, scoring 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
The game marked the sixth time in seven games the Badgers have scored 80 or more points. Prior to this year, Wisconsin hadn't reached the 80-point mark in five games since the 1995-96 season.
The Badgers used the blowout victory to give seldom-used bench players quality time throughout the second half. Boo Wade, Ray Nixon and Andreas Helmigk, who have seen limited action this season, all played double-digit minutes.
Ryan praised New Hampshire for not giving up and giving his bench players a chance to hone their skills in a game situation.
"The (New Hampshre) coach did a great job of having them continue to run good, solid half-court offense," Ryan said. "They were not coming down, making one pass and taking bad shots. They were forcing guys to defend the post…they did a pretty good job of playing the game."
The Badgers put the game out of reach less than 10 minutes into regulation, building a 25-4 lead at the 11:34 mark. Wisconsin hit 10 of its first 14 shots from the field, while New Hampshire opened the game missing four of its first 18 field goals.
Wisconsin shot 60.6 percent in the first half, and rewarded its crowd with one highlight reel play after another. Tucker, making his second consecutive start, had two monster dunks including an alley-oop from Harris.
The crowd came alive late in the first half with chants for junior center Dave Mader, following a dunk and two rejections on the same New Hampshire possession with less than two minutes remaining in the half.
Mader, who was held scoreless in Saturday's game against UNLV, finished with eight points.
Wisconsin hits the road for the second time this season Saturday night, completing its schedule of in-state opponents with a battle against No. 16 Marquette at 7:30 p.m. (CST). The Badgers are looking for a sweep of the state of Wisconsin, having defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee Nov. 23 and Wisconsin-Green Bay Nov. 30.
Wisconsin Dismantles New Hampshire, 85-36
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