MADISON - Nebraska came into the Kohl Center at 1-4 in conference play and heading nowhere fast. Even in defeat, however, the Cornhuskers reminded Wisconsin that no team in this year's Big Ten can be taken lightly.
Winter break and a Packers playoff game meant a sparse crowd witnessed the Badgers' 50-45 win. The fans in attendance were subjected to a sloppy performance by both teams.
Despite shooting 45 percent from the floor in the first half, Wisconsin committed 11 turnovers, including four by Ben Brust and three by Ryan Evans. As a result, UW held just a 24-21 lead at the break.
"That's pretty uncharacteristic," Josh Gasser said of the turnovers. "Missing opportunities to get a shot off isn't what you're looking for."
"Everybody's trying to make the great play," head coach Bo Ryan said. "I've always coached players to make good plays. You don't have to make great plays to be a good basketball team."
Wisconsin managed a 19-to-9 rebounding advantage in the first 20 minutes.
The second half saw the Badgers go ice cold from the floor, a disturbing trend at the Kohl Center this season. Wisconsin made just 6 of 28 field goal attempts and went 0-for-10 from three-point land.
"If I had the answer, then it wouldn't be a problem," Jordan Taylor said. "We're just not knocking down shots here."
But the Badgers were able to get to the line, where they made 18 of 24 free throw attempts for the game. Taylor went 11-of-15 from the charity stripe, including 5-of-6 in the final 23 seconds to seal the victory.
"They went in," Ryan said of the free throws. "When you get the opportunity to close it out, you shut the door."
UW continued to use its advantage on the glass, pulling down 17 offensive rebounds and scoring 17 second chance points.
The Badgers held the Huskers to 45 points. They have now held 10 of their first 19 opponents to 45 points or fewer.
Ryan opted for a short rotation once again, using just eight players. As usual, Brust got the most playing time off the bench (17 minutes), while Rob Wilson played 14 minutes but did not score.
Wisconsin now gets ready to face Northwestern at the Kohl Center Wednesday night. With the Wildcats' win over Michigan State this weekend, it's safe to say they will have the Badgers' full attention.
"Nothing is a given in this league," Jared Berggren said. "Every team is going to put up a fight. Every game is a battle and you can't take anything for granted. You can't look past anyone."