I know it sounds hard to believe, but the Badgers are 6-0 for the first time under Bo Ryan. They are also Chicago Invitational Challenge champions.
Powered by a second-half barrage of 3-pointers from sophomore Ben Brust, Wisconsin buried a BYU team that was giving UW all it could handle for the first 25 minutes. Brust tied a school record with seven threes (on 7-for-10 shooting) to lead all scorers with 21 points en route to a 73-56 Badger victory at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The bigger and surprisingly athletic Cougars (4-2) hung tough with the Badgers in the first half and acquitted themselves well on the interior. Brigham Young outscored UW 16-8 in the paint and trailed by just two at the break, 34-32. But the game would be decided on the perimeter. After BYU tied the game at 42-42 on a steal and lay in by Brock Zylstra with 13:38 remaining in the game, Brust hit his final five 3-pointers over a 10-minute stretch to blow the game wide open.
Wisconsin shot 13-of-24 (54.2%) from behind the arc as a team, hitting its first five to start the contest, while BYU only mustered one 3-pointer on 10 attempts -- a difference of 36 points.
A recurring theme from yesterday's win over Bradley was the tempo, as BYU had success when able to force the Badgers into first-half turnovers (there were seven of them) when they extended their man-to-man pressure and get out into the open floor. The Cougars scored 11 points off fast break opportunities in fact. Wisconsin, to its credit however, tightened the ship once again at half time and had only five turnovers after play resumed.
With the Badgers shooting so well, they eventually won the rebounding battle, too, because there were so few misses for BYU to corral. Noah Hartsock paced the Cougars with 18 points.
Junior Brandon Davies appeared to be a load for Wisconsin to handle inside because of his agility, but luckily for Wisconsin, Mike Bruesewitz showed up big time Saturday night. The junior forward combined with Jared Berggren to shoot 10-for-17 from the floor and each scored 13 points to counteract Davies and Hartsock. Davies contributed three steals, but shot poorly (4-for-10) had a few unforced turnovers.
Jordan Taylor appears to be finding more of a rhythm for Wisconsin, as he added 18 points and eight assists. For the most part, he was able to pick apart the 2-3 zone that the Cougars tried unsuccessfully.
The biggest test of the season looms next for Wisconsin, as a trip to No. 1 North Carolina is on tap for the marquee Wednesday game of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Tar Heels will be hungry to avenge Saturday's 90-80 upset on a "neutral" Las Vegas court at the hands of UNLV -- another future Badger opponent. Sound familiar Wisconsin fans?
The Badgers will have to avoid the scoring lulls that plagued them occasionally in running to this early season tournament title, because a group like North Carolina can run you out of the gym quickly. BYU was able to take advantage of such a drought Saturday. After a great cut by Bruesewitz led to a dunk and three-point play to give UW a 22-10 lead, a bizarro 10-minute stretch saw Wisconsin give away the ball six times and score only one field goal. The 20-4 run by BYU gave the Cougars their only leads of the game, the last being 30-28 with 3:17 left in the first half.