It didn't take long for Devin Harris to turn a sloppy game that was too close for comfort into the blowout everyone expected.
Harris scored nine of his 19 points in the first four minutes of the second half, helping Wisconsin cruise to a 73-45 victory over Chicago State Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center.
It was the first-ever meeting between the two programs, and the final non-conference game for both schools. Wisconsin (10-2) opens its Big Ten schedule Wednesday night at Michigan, while Chicago State (3-9) hosts Missouri-Kansas City Thursday night.
Harris led Wisconsin in scoring, hitting 5-of-7 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. The sophomore guard's hot shooting at the beginning of the second half helped the Badgers go on a 13-3 run to pull away from their Mid-Continent Conference opponent. Kirk Penney had 14 points, hitting 6-of-10 attempts.
After struggling to pull away in the first half, Harris took the game into his own hands, scoring on four of the first six possessions following the break.
"If the opportunity is there, he's going to take advantage of it," Coach Bo Ryan said. "He knows that's his job. He found himself open on the perimeter with some pretty good looks."
The Badgers continued their torrid shooting, hitting 55.3 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range. Wisconsin entered the game third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.479), and has shot 48 percent or better in seven of its last eight games.
While Wisconsin won the game convincingly, it struggled early with some uncharacteristic turnovers, coughing up the ball three times in the first five minutes and eight times in the first half. In the Badgers' 80-67 victory over Temple two days earlier, they turned the ball over just once in the first 18 minutes of the game.
Wisconsin finished the game with 14 turnovers, one shy of its season-worst (Dec. 21 against Texas Southern). The Badgers entered the game leading the Big Ten in fewest turnovers with 10.4 per game.
Ryan said he wasn't overly concerned with the Badgers' increased number of turnovers, particularly coming off one day's rest from a tough road game.
"Most of those were early, where guys were just trying to make creative plays," Ryan said. "I think a few of those, guys were trying to make a great pass. Sometimes when you've been successful at making a post feed, you think you can get it in there every time."
Chicago State couldn't penetrate the Badgers defense inside the paint, but kept the score close in the first half with some solid outside shooting. The Cougars trailed just 29-21 at halftime, hitting 3-of-5 attempts from three-point range, while shooting 50 percent from the floor. After cooling off in the second half, Chicago State finished the game at 37.8 percent.
Chicago State Coach Bo Ellis said his game plan was being executed well early, but Harris' run early in the second half disrupted his team's opportunity to keep the game close.
"We did everything we wanted to in the first half. We slowed down the pace, we took the crowd out of it, we made shots, we were patient on offense. We were right where we wanted to be, then we fell apart," Ellis said.
The Cougars were led by Rubeen Perry, who hit 4-of-8 attempts for 10 points.
While Wisconsin's schedule hasn't stacked up with the difficult non-conference slates of recent years, the Badgers feel they are ready to defend their 2002 Big Ten regular season championship.
"Our preparation is over," said Penney. "Hopefully we're battle-tested and we're ready to take it to them."
WISCONSIN 73, CHICAGO STATE 45
Smallwood 2-6 1-2 5, Perry 4-8 1-1 10, Franklin 2-7 1-3 7, Wimmer 3-7 1-2 8, Turner 4-5 0-0 8, Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Mlachnik 1-4 0-0 3, Thomas 0-4 0-0 0, Hansbro 0-0 2-2 2, Carter 1-2 0-0 2, Bone 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-45 7-9 45.
Tucker 4-6 3-4 11, Wilkinson 1-1 4-4 6, Penney 6-10 0-0 14, Owens 4-8 2-4 10, Harris 5-7 6-6 19, Ukawuba 0-0 0-0 0, Nixon 2-6 0-1 4, Chappell 0-0 0-0 0, Wade 0-3 0-0 0, Hanson 1-3 0-0 3, Helmigk 1-1 0-0 2, Mader 2-2 0-1 4, Buchanan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-47 15-20 73.
Halftime_Wisconsin 29, Chicago State 21. 3-point goals_ Chicago State 4-11 (Perry 1-1, Mlachnik 1-1, Wimmer 1-2, Franklin 1-3, Turner 0-1, Thomas 0-3), Wisconsin 6-15 (Harris 3-4, Penney 2-3, Hanson 1-3, Tucker 0-1, Nixon 0-1, Wade 0-1) Fouled out_ Franklin, Hansbro. Rebounds_Chicago State 22 (Carter 5), Wisconsin 31 (Wilkinson 7). Assists_Chicago State 5 (Franklin 3), Wisconsin 15 (Harris 5). Total fouls_Chicago State 20, Wisconsin 14. A_ 17,142.<
Badgers Trounce Chicago State
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