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Wisconsin vs. Northwestern: Badgers overwhelm Wildcats in Evanston

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Wisconsin cruised from the start Sunday night in Evanston.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

EVANSTON -- In a final homecoming for Wisconsin seniors Frank Kaminsky and Duje Dukan, the No. 4 Badgers (2-0 Big Ten, 14-1 overall) came out firing against Northwestern (1-1, 10-5) to make sure there would be no repeat of last year's upset loss in Madison. After jumping out to a 13-point lead less than eight minutes into the game, Wisconsin continued to pour it on the Wildcats en route to an 81-58 victory in front of a very friendly Welsh-Ryan crowd.

Certainly for the first 20 minutes, the story was the play of Wisconsin's frontcourt, which dominated the smaller Northwestern front line, particularly after NU 7-footer Alex Olah picked up his second personal foul less than 3:30 into the game. With Northwestern down its primary rim protector, the Badgers had their way on the offensive end. When Kaminsky started out with five points in the first four minutes of the game, he looked like he might be on his way to the second triple-double in UW history. After a mid-game lull that followed his second foul midway through the first half, the Lisle, Ill., native finished the night with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

With Kaminsky staying in the background offensively for most of the first half, fellow bigs Dukan, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes picked up the slack, all three finishing the first half in double figures. Hayes finished the evening with 10 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting, while Dekker ended up with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Matching Dekker nearly point-for-point, Dukan also jumped out to a hot start, hitting his first three shots and finishing the first half with 10 points.

"Sam and Duje played really well in the first half," Kaminsky said. "Duje was getting to the rim and Sam was hitting all of his outside shots."

Although Kaminsky failed to score over a period of nearly 22 minutes during the middle part of the game, he nonetheless was a factor when he was able to remain on the floor. With the Badgers moving the ball as well as they have all year, Kaminsky's presence in the post left very little in the way of defensive focus for the remaining UW weapons.

"Frank opens up so much for the whole team," Dekker said. "He gets a lot of the attention inside and for good cause because he is one of the best players in the nation. When we move the ball like we did tonight it gives us a lot of easy looks. You could see when Frank came out the looks weren't there as much."

"They did a nice job but that's Frank Kaminsky," Ryan added. "He will play the other parts of the game and that is why he is one of the better players in the country."

Dukan, a Deerfield, Ill., native and former Northwestern target, contributed 14 points off the bench for Wisconsin and played with more energy than perhaps he has ever played with in his time at UW.

"He is slowing down and seeing things," Ryan said of Dukan's role this year. "We can only start five guys but Duje is getting 20 to 25 minutes and he is ready to play all of them."

After struggling from the field over his last few games, the fifth-year senior knocked down his first three field goals before finishing 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range. Having shown for some time the ability to have an impact with his perimeter game, Dukan was much more active around the rim, finishing several dribble drives while also drawing five Northwestern fouls.

"Tonight I had the bigs switch out on me in a couple of situations so I decided to take it to the rim and take advantage." -Duje Dukan

"I just want to help the team in any way possible," Dukan said. "Tonight I had the bigs switch out on me in a couple of situations so I decided to take it to the rim and take advantage."

The first half was just about as flawless an offensive performance from UW as possible. The Badgers headed to halftime having made 15 of 28 from the field (54 percent) and eight of 15 from three-point range (53 percent), all while contributing 14 assists to just two turnovers on those 15 made field goals.

Even as the Wildcats attempted to stifle the UW attack by moving back into a matchup zone, Wisconsin continued to find offense from a number of different sources. While Dekker and Dukan shouldered much of the load during the Badgers' initial run, it was Hayes who flashed offensive brilliance after Northwestern switched defenses. Eight of 10 of Hayes' points came against that zone, taking the Wisconsin lead from 15 to 21 with just over a minute remaining in the opening frame.

"You make cuts, you touch the post," Ryan said of the Badgers' approach against the Wildcats' zone. "You can get shots if you stay true to your spacing and stay true to the game."

Northwestern got its usual contributions on the offensive end from guards Tre Demps (17 points, four assists) and Bryant McIntosh (13 points, three assists) but never had a chance with Olah and the rest of the Wildcat frontcourt struggling to add much to the attack. Northwestern missed all seven of its three-point attempts in the first half and finished the evening shooting just 24-of-61 from the field (39 percent) and only 4-of-14 from three-point range (29 percent). Unable to put a string of positive possessions together, NU never got the lead below 20 points at any point over the final 16:39 of the game.

"Our philosophy has never changed," Ryan said of the defensive approach. "Try to take away the three, take away the rim, and try to make people make tough twos."

Wisconsin now heads home for a Wednesday night matchup with Purdue. After struggling in non-conference play, the Boilermakers have won their first two Big Ten contests and sit atop the conference standings beside UW. While the Badgers will be heavily favored, any Big Ten game is a game worthy of attention, something Purdue made very clear when it spoiled UW's senior day the last time it made a visit to the Kohl Center.

"All we talk about is the team we are playing next," Ryan said. "Our guys stay pretty focused that way."