MADISON -- On Thursday night, the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers looked to reclaim a spot atop the Big Ten standings against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the Kohl Center. The Badgers, who had preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky back after a concussion, faced a tough foe with a red-hot star player in Terran Petteway.
After a back-and-forth pace for much of the first half, the Badgers were able to come out on top and secure a share of the conference lead with a 70-55 victory.
Kaminsky wasted no time returning to his old form, scoring 22 points and grabbing five rebounds in the victory. Nigel Hayes followed his double-double performance with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists, which led the team. Bronson Koenig was able to find success again in his second career start by scoring 11 points as he filled in for the injured Traevon Jackson.
In the first half, the teams jostled back and forth, with the lead changing four times, but Wisconsin was able to take control toward the end with a 9-0 run into halftime. Kaminsky was able to find holes in the defense and fill the basket with 15 points in the half, while Nigel Hayes complemented him nicely with nine points and three assists.
"Frank is a player of the year guy in my mind," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "Philosophically, you can’t let Wisconsin beat you in the post."
Not to be outdone by Kaminsky was Nebraska's Petteway, who has All-American aspirations of his own. Coming into the game averaging 18.9 points per game, the 6'6 guard from Galveston, Texas, went 8-of-13 from the field in the first half and scored 20 of the Huskers' 27 points in the first half. The rest of the Nebraska team shot a collective 3-of-14 from the field, and the Badgers finished the half leading 37-27.
In the second half, Nebraska was able to cut the Wisconsin lead to four points early, but that was as close as the Huskers would come for the rest of the game. The Badgers went on a 13-0 run to jump out to a 17-point lead, which extended to 22 at one point on the way to the win.
"When they had that one stretch, that hurt us midway through the second half," Miles said. "We had it down to four or six and then it got away from us."
After halftime, the Badgers were able to slow Petteway down significantly. The junior scored only five points in the first 12 minutes of the half, as Wisconsin was able to force the rest of the Huskers -- who shot a collective 31 percent in the first half -- into taking more shots. Petteway in his own respect cooled off considerably from his 62 percent shooting in the first half to shoot 3-of-7 in the second and 11-of-20 overall on his way to 27 points.
"You get tired when you carry the whole load," Miles said. "He’s trying to be a more well-rounded player and instead of forcing a bad shot, I thought he did good things in terms of moving the ball."
"It looks like neutralizing, but [Petteway's] shots weren't going down the same way," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "He hit some tough shots in the first half."
The night was not just about Kaminsky's ability to score, though he did become the 40th Wisconsin player to reach 1,000 career points. Just two games earlier, Sam Dekker achieved the same accomplishment. Kaminsky accomplished the feat early in the first half on his second three-pointer of the night. But more important was his ability to come back after missing a game and have the same impact as before.
"He's ready all the time. He wants to play," Ryan said of Kaminsky.
"It was good to have him back on the court," Dekker added. "He does a lot of good things for us every time out. He played great again tonight. He got to the rim and hit some big shots from the outside and looked to be in a rhythm."
Koenig played the most minutes of any player with 37 in his second start after averaging just over 20 minutes coming into the night. Dekker and Duje Dukan both got to double-digit points in the victory as well, giving the Badgers five players to reach that mark.
The Badgers will next take the floor against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Jan. 20 at the Kohl Center.