MADISON - Wisconsin won big over an overmatched non-conference opponent, and head coach Bo Ryan misquoted a lyric from a Notorious B.I.G. song -- twice -- in his postgame press conference. In other words, it was just another night at the Kohl Center.
It had been eight days since UW beat Savannah State here, and the team looked fresh after an extended break for final exams. Mississippi Valley State came in with a dreadful 1-9 record, having endured a brutally tough schedule to this point.
Still, Wisconsin looked good in winning 79-45 and now carries momentum into conference play, which begins Tuesday night at Nebraska.
The Badgers raced out to a 17-2 lead as Ben Brust nailed a deep 3-pointer less than six minutes into the first half. MVSU then went on a run to close the deficit to 28-17 on two free throws from Paul Crosby, but that was as close as it would get the rest of the way.
The Badgers held the Devils to just 25 percent shooting in the first half, while shooting 46.2 percent from the floor themselves.
The game turned into a foul-fest in the second period. Four Mississippi Valley State players finished the game with at least four fouls apiece, including Brent Arrington, who fouled out, and Crosby, who tied for the team lead in scoring with 14 points.
The result was 44 free throw attempts for Wisconsin, which made 31 of them. Josh Gasser scored 7 of his 11 points from the line.
"I have no chance with that," MVSU head coach Sean Woods said about the foul situation. "My team has no chance with that. You're not going to beat any Wisconsin team of this magnitude when they're going to the line that much. We have no chance to win or to even stay close."
The Badgers also got hot from the floor in the second half, sinking 10-of-18 shots. In addition to drawing fouls, the team moved away from its reliance on the 3-point shot. Just 10 of UW's 44 field goal attempts came from deep.
That is not surprising, considering some of the individual mismatches. The Badgers used their size advantage to gain a 39-to-23 rebounding edge and scored 24 of their points in the paint. They also converted 17 MVSU turnovers into 19 points of their own.
Jordan Taylor led the Badgers with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting and now rides a bit of a hot streak into conference play.
Rob Wilson contributed 7 points in a 13-minute stint and continues to look more comfortable on the court. He has just four turnovers in 137 minutes this season, a marked improvement from his junior year.
And so the non-conference chapter of the UW men's basketball season has concluded. While Taylor did say he'd prefer to be 13-0 at this point, the team's 11-2 record is not too shabby, and wins over UNLV and BYU and single-digit losses to North Carolina and Marquette continue to look better as those teams thrive.
Jared Berggren, arguably the most improved Badger, led the team in scoring during non-league play, averaging 12.5 points per game, while Ryan Evans pulled down seven rebounds per contest.
After a subpar 2010-11 season defensively, UW has clamped down, holding its non-conference foes to 33.5 percent shooting and an average of 44.7 points per game.
After the game, Ryan looked to Biggie Smalls for a philosophical take on what non-conference play has taught him about his team.
"Now you know what you don't know," Ryan said. The actual lyric from the song, Juicy, is "if you don't know, now you know," but by the time anyone could correct Bo, he had already begun preparing for Tuesday night's conference opener in Lincoln.