|No. 4 Duke||35||45||80|
MADISON -- In what was widely considered the most anticipated matchup of the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers took on the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils at the Kohl Center Wednesday night. Duke was able to handle the Badgers despite a career scoring night from Traevon Jackson by shooting 65 percent from the floor in an 80-70 victory, handing Wisconsin its first loss on the season.
A night that was dubbed a frontcourt matchup between All-American Frank Kaminsky and freshman preseason national player of the year Jahlil Okafor was less about the two stars and more about the guards for Duke and their ability to put the ball in the hoop. The Blue Devils were led by freshman guard Tyus Jones, who scored 22 points, and received a spark off the bench from Rasheed Sulaimon and his 14 points.
The Badgers were able to jump out to an early 6-2 lead at the 15:36 mark, but that would be their largest lead of the night. The Badgers hung with the youthful Blue Devils, but struggled to regain the lead after Duke took it over with 10:56 mark in the first half. Wisconsin recaptured the lead with 15:09 left in the game, although it would be the last time UW led.
"I would say they hit tough shots," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "They have good enough players that do that at times. To have as many do it in the same night, that's just not fair."
Jokes aside, the Blue Devils shot lights-out from the floor, but also shut down the Badgers' Nos. 2 and 3 threats offensively in Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes. The Badgers as a team shot just under 41 percent. Dekker and Hayes were a combined 3-of-10 from the field scoring only nine points between the two of them.
"Our guys just showed a lot grit. Our defense was good," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "Our offensive efficiency was incredible tonight."
"They played good defense. The switching part, we understood," Ryan said. "We do some of that ourselves."
While there were six lead changes and six separate tied scores at various points throughout the game, the Badgers could never really widen the gap between the Blue Devils and themselves when they had the opportunity. The largest lead the Badgers ever had was four points early in the first half. The back-and-forth game took a turn in the Blue Devils' favor midway through the second half when Duke went on a 7-0 run and a nine-point advantage.
"When you're at home, you've got to take advantage of that familiarity of your baskets and everything else and I just thought we had a couple chances to take a bigger lead or not let them get away," Ryan said.
"If you're playing from behind and you're us, and you're playing from behind against Duke, that's pretty difficult."
Duke was able to beat Wisconsin in a few areas other than shooting. The Badgers were able to match the Blue Devils' presence in the paint early in the game, but in the second half the distance between the two teams showed inside, as Duke finished the game scoring 32 points there to Wisconsin's 22.
Another point of difference was Duke's ability to score on fast breaks. While Wisconsin held them under double-digits in the category, the Blue Devils outscored the Badgers 9-0 on fast breaks.
The Badgers struggled in the second half offensively, only shooting 36 percent from the floor and failing to establish a presence down low. While Kaminsky scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, he went 5-12 from the field and missed three of his eight attempted free throws.
The true bright spot of the Badgers' second half was Traevon Jackson's ability to keep Wisconsin within striking distance. The senior scored a career-high 25 points, 17 of which came in the second half when the Badgers were struggling to find anything working offensively.
"I think that our team struggled in getting some shots," Jackson said. "I was just doing my part. It wasn't anything special."
Jackson said the Badgers lacked a third guy to score on Thursday. He said Duke never really felt the pressure of losing the lead because the Badgers struggled offensively throughout the game and in the second half.
"Jackson was amazing," Krzyzewski said. "I can't say enough about Jackson, though. We had a couple spurts there where if we make a stop, it's a double-digit game and all of the sudden he hits a three or makes a play."
Wisconsin gets a chance to get back on a winning streak with a game Saturday against Marquette at the Bradley Center.