MADISON, Wis. - If the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers were worried about rust after a two week break between games their fears were unfounded. The Badgers picked up right where they left off on Dec. 14, blowing by the Prairie View A&M Panthers, 80-43, on Saturday at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers (13-0) were in control from start to finish, shooting 45.8 percent in the first half and 43.1 percent after halftime. Sophomore forward Sam Dekker led the Badgers with 16 points, while freshman forward Nigel Hayes finished with at least 10 points for the second game in a row. Ben Brust and Frank Kaminsky also finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The win leaves the Badgers undefeated as they head in to Big Ten play, which starts on Jan. 2 with a road game against Northwestern. Three more wins would give the Badgers their best start in program history, after the 1911-12 and 1913-114 Badgers finished their seasons 15-0.
But while the Badgers were glad to get back to their winning ways after a long layoff, they know the road is going to get much tougher from here on out.
"If you break seasons down … you say non-conference and then conference. We had our schedule laid out in front of us. To finish it without a mark on the right hand side- I'm very proud of them," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said after the game. "But we also know what happens with the workload now. It gets a lot heavier, a lot tougher."
The Badgers also held Prairie View A&M in check on the defensive end. The Badgers allowed the Panthers to shoot just 32.7 percent from the floor in the game, and the Panthers got to the free throw line just four times. Montrael Scott made 4-of-6 3-pointers, but no other Prairie View A&M player finished the game with more than 7 points.
Prairie View A&M also turned the ball over 13 times in the game, while the Badgers gave the ball away just twice. Both of Wisconsin's turnovers came less than five minutes into the game, but Ryan said he was glad to see his team cut down on their mistakes after that point.
"I thought we made much better decisions," Ryan said. "I thought we got a little loose with the ball early, and then they settled in. It's been a while since we had the lights on and the scoreboard running."
The play of the night came with 12:14 left in the game, when Hayes lobbed a pass almost out of bounds but Dekker was able to catch it and throw it down for his second dunk of the night. Dekker had to use all of his 6-foot-7 frame to reel the pass in, but Hayes joked that there was a method to what could have been an ill-advised pass.
"The theory behind the pass was that if I throw the pass near the rim, Sam dunks the ball, we clap, and it may make Wisconsin nightly news," Hayes said. "If I throw the ball high, almost out of bounds, and Sam dunks it, we're talking SportsCenter Top 10. All credit to Sam- thanks for making me look good."
Dekker deflected the praise but admitted to watching the replay on the Kohl Center's scoreboard. In the end it was one final highlight from a non-conference schedule that was full of them for the Badgers, but with the rough-and-tumble Big Ten season up next the Badgers said they're right where they expected to be.
"I definitely think [we expected to be undefeated]," Kaminsky said. "Just like we expect to win the Big Ten championship this year. That's an expectation. I think if you talk to anyone in our locker room they'll say the same thing.
"We were so close last year, and to not come away with it in the Big Ten tournament left a sour taste in our mouths. We really want it this year, and we're going to do everything we can to get that."
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