MADISON, Wis. - Four days after losing their first game of the season, the 12th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers showed why they're expected to contend for the Big Ten crown in an 81-66 thumping of Florida State Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Alando Tucker scored 22 points in the win, 18 after suffering a potent poke to his right eye late in the first half.
Outside of Tucker, the Badgers (5-1) have struggled all season long to find reliable scoring options. This wouldn't be one of those games. Kammron Taylor chipped in 18 points while Brian Butch muscled home 13.
Yet it was Tucker's 3-pointer with five minutes left in the first half that vaulted the Badgers to victory. Tucker re-entered the game with six minutes remaining in the opening half, his team, up by only four points. The splendid senior strutted onto the court, snuck into the corner, and fired up a game changing 3. The 3 upped the Badgers lead to seven and they wouldn't look back.
"I was surprised he took it," UW head coach Bo Ryan said of the attempt. "I thought he'd at least get used to the lights after he got back in, but that was huge."
Florida State's 21 turnovers – to go with just eight assists - were also huge. The Seminoles (4-2) came into the game averaging 18 turnovers a night.
"Three out of the first four possessions we turned the ball over," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton lamented. "That didn't help."
Taylor's flurry of 3-pointers didn't help Florida State's cause either. He scored a combined 17 points in a three game stretch against Southern, Delaware State, and Missouri State in the last few weeks. The Minneapolis native found his touch early against the Seminoles, scoring 18 while knocking home 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and six of nine shots overall.
Tuesday's win over the Seminoles marked the Big Ten's first victory of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In a later game, Northwestern outlasted Miami, 61-59, for the conference's second win of the Challenge. The ACC leads the Big Ten 4-2 with five more game scheduled for Wednesday evening.
Wednesday ACC/Big Ten Schedule
All times Central
Michigan State at Boston College, ESPN
Iowa at Virginia Tech, ESPNU
Virginia at Purdue, ESPN2
Ohio State at North Carolina, ESPN
Clemson at Minnesota, ESPN2
Bryant O'Neil works as a sports reporter with ESPN 1290 in La Crosse.