There aren't many teams that experience a height disadvantage against Wisconsin, one of the smallest teams in the Big Ten.
But Wednesday night against Northwestern was a rare exception, and the Badgers took full advantage of their size inside. Wisconsin owned the paint, doubling the Wildcats' rebounds, 42-21, while rolling to a 69-50 victory at the Kohl Center.
Kirk Penney led the Badgers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Alando Tucker, Mike Wilkinson and Freddie Owens finished in double figures.
The win marked the Badgers' fourth consecutive victory, improving to 11-1 on their home floor this season. Wisconsin is 11-0 in Big Ten home games during the Bo Ryan era. The Badgers will conclude a three-game homestand Saturday afternoon at 3:37 p.m., hosting Penn State.
Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten) showed few ill effects from a bye last weekend. The Badgers had a rare week off between games, but returned in peak form. Wisconsin shot 80 percent during the first 10 minutes of the game, and established a strong advantage on the boards.
The Badgers' shooting gradually cooled off, but their ability to create second-chance opportunities thwarted Northwestern's attempt to climb back into the game.
"In the first half, (Wisconsin) missed 16 shots, which is a lot of shots to miss in a half," said Northwestern Coach Bill Carmody. "But they had 12 offensive rebounds. I thought they outplayed us at both ends of the court."
While Wisconsin had control of the game throughout the first half, its lead was just 10 points at the break, 35-25. Wisconsin used a 10-4 run at the beginning of the second half to pull away. Northwestern stayed within striking distance the majority of the contest as Wisconsin's shooting percentage dropped. The Badgers finished the game shooting 46 percent from the floor.
Coach Bo Ryan called his team's performance "methodical," as they got hot early and picked apart a mismatched opponent.
"I wanted us to get the good looks, the hard cuts, get some shots early. We looked pretty fresh," Ryan said.
Wisconsin established an early lead, building a quick 15-3 advantage on the boards. The Badgers hit their first five shots from the floor, and took a 22-11 lead with 11:39 remaining after two athletic plays by Devin Harris on consecutive possessions.
Harrris stole a pass by Mohamed Hachad and went the distance for a two-handed dunk. On the ensuing possession, Harris intercepted a pass from T.J. Parker and drove to the basket for his second field goal in 12 seconds, giving Wisconsin an 11-point lead.
Guard Jitim Young kept the Wildcats in the game early, hitting 6-of-8 shots in the first half for 14 points at the break. Young entered the game averaging 11.6 points per game. He was held to just three points in the second-half, finishing with a team-high 17.
Young was the only Northwestern player to find his rhythm offensively. With two extra practices during the bye week, Wisconsin was well-prepared to defend Northwestern's offense.
"We did a good job of making them work hard," Ryan said. "There were only three or four possessions out of about 60 where they got an easy pass into the lane. I thought we did some nice things defensively to take away their strengths."
After losing its first two conference games, Wisconsin has climbed into a tie for second place in the Big Ten with its four-game winning streak.
"I think when you start 0-1, when you come to practice everybody is paying attention, everyone is aware," Penney said. "You could feel that the intensity was up. We just have to keep that intensity every time and hopefully it will rub off on the games."
Northwestern (8-9, 0-6 Big Ten), which is still looking for its first Big Ten victory, plays its third consecutive road game Saturday at Ohio State.
The Kohl Center attendance of 17,032 was 110 shy of a packed house, ending a streak of four consecutive sellouts for Wisconsin men's basketball.
Badgers Win Fourth Straight
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