MADISON, Wis. - The wind chill touched minus 14 degrees outside of the Kohl Center, but it didn't take the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers very long to warm up.
The Badgers made 9-of-13 3-pointers in the first half alone and finished the game shooting 50.8 percent from the floor, blowing out the UW-Milwaukee Panthers 78-52 along the way. The Badgers moved to 11-0 on the season with the win, and completed a season sweep of their in-state rivals after they defeated Marquette and UW-Green Bay earlier in the season.
Senior guard Ben Brust led the Badgers with 18 points, and helped the Badgers get going in the first half by making all four of his 3-point shots in the first half. Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson and Sam Dekker also combined to score 40 points of their own.
As a whole the Badgers shot 64 percent from the field in the first half, and in the end it was more than enough to help them overcome a shooting slump from behind the arc in the second half. Brust said he was disappointed that he missed all four of his 3-point attempts after halftime, but it's hard to be too upset with an 18-point night.
"It would have been nice to keep that rhythm," Brust said after the game. "It was just a product of having some good offense. Driving, kicking, finding guys. We shot the ball well early and then it just died in the second half. I just felt good early on."
Dekker didn't get above 10 points until late in the second half, but he found other ways to help the Badgers build up their lead in the first half. Dekker went in to the locker room at halftime with four points, four rebounds and four assists, and finished the game with eight rebounds and six assists.
Dekker was credited for an assist on two of Brust's 3-pointers, and said that when the senior guard gets going it's hard not to give him the ball.
"Ben's one of those guys who can get hot real quick, and he can change the whole complexion of the game. When he gets hot, you'd better watch out," Dekker said. "When you've got a shooter like that you always have to give him the green light."
The Badgers also put together another solid defensive performance, holding the Panthers to just nine field goals in the first half. The Panthers shot 42.6 percent from the floor in the game, including 6-of-17 from the 3-point line. The Badgers also out-rebounded the Panthers 35-26, and took advantage of Milwaukee's 19 total turnovers by scoring 28 of their own points after a Panther turnover.
11-straight wins to start the season matches Wisconsin's best start in the modern era, according to the Wisconsin athletic department. And while a win this weekend against Eastern Kentucky would give the Badgers their best start in program history, the players know that their schedule is going to get a lot tougher when the calendar flips and they start Big Ten play.
"We still know it's going to get much, much harder moving forward," Brust said. "The Big Ten is just something different. I think what's been great about this start is we've been challenged in many different ways. High scoring, low scoring, neutral court, home game, away game. We just have a lot of things that we've been able to do. That's been cool, but it all resets come January."
That might be true, but it will be hard to find a more confident team in the Big Ten if the Badgers can keep their non-conference success going for a few more weeks. Their next game against Eastern Kentucky is slated for a noon tip time on Saturday, with their final non-conference game of the season against Prairie View A&M set for a 1 p.m. tip off on Dec. 28.
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