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Eastern Kentucky vs. Wisconsin: Badgers move to best-ever 12-0 start

Wisconsin had no problem taking down Eastern Kentucky Saturday at the Kohl Center.

Mike McGinnis

MADISON -- Early on Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center, it appeared Eastern Kentucky was going to do anything it took to slow down Ben Brust.

Every time the senior guard floated outside the three-point line, the Colonels’ bench made sure their guys on the floor knew it. Eventually, though, Brust imposed his will.

The Hawthorn Woods, Ill., native put on another shooting clinic, hitting five of seven three-point attempts and seven of 12shots overall from the floor, leading the No. 4 Badgers (12-0) with 20 points in a 86-61 win over EKU. The win gives head coach Bo Ryan’s 13th UW team the best start in the program’s modern era.

"I just think overall we have a lot of different parts that come together and fit nicely," Brust said.

Wisconsin dominated in all phases, shooting 60.5 percent (26-of-43) from the floor, 60 percent from three-point range (9-of-15) outrebounding Eastern Kentucky, 33-20, and holding the Colonels to 41.4 percent shooting.

EKU, which starts four guards and has nobody taller than junior forward Eric Stutz, who’s listed at 6’8, tried to play aggressive man-to-man defense, jump passing lanes and front the post right from the start. The Colonels entered the game ranked second in the country in steals, creating 11 and 18.2 turnovers per game. It occasionally made the Badgers look out of sorts -- Wisconsin turned the ball over on two of its first three possessions -- but UW for the most part used balanced scoring and the ability of multiple players to get to the rim to offset the aggressiveness.

"Where we really got some help is with what Bronson Koenig did with the ball," Ryan said of his freshman guard. "There aren’t too many guys that can break down defenses like he did today. We broke their defense down several times for wide-open looks."

Koenig finished with four points, three assists and two turnovers in 24 minutes, but Ryan didn’t think the stats were reflective of the La Crosse, Wis., native’s performance.

"I still don’t like the rule in the NCAA that if you hit a guy with a pass and he’s fouled and goes to the free throw line, you should get an assist, Ryan said. "Of those (13) points that Nigel had at the free throw line, how many of those were the result of a pass from Bronson?"

Once that ability to get in the lane was established, Brust started making hay from deep. He hit three threes in the first seven minutes of the second half and had reached his team-high point total by the 13:38 mark.

"It was really something different than I had ever seen before," Brust said of the EKU defense. "It was interesting to try to get open at times. Our guards did a good job of finding gaps when they’re there.

"The Badgers continued to spread around the scoring, as sophomore forward Sam Dekker (17 points) and redshirt junior center Frank Kaminsky (13) joined Brust and Hayes in reaching double figures. It marks the third game in a row and eighth overall this season where at least four UW players scored in double figures.

Hayes' total easily marked a career-high, and he came about it in a bit of an unorthodox way. The Toledo, Ohio native attempted a gaudy 17 free throws, making 13 of them. He finished 2 of 3 from the field.

"I've been working on my mechanics ... and watching Bronson because as we all know, Bronson is a great shooter as well as Ben," Hayes said. "I just want to be like Ben."

Overall, the Badgers finished 25 of 33 from the free throw line and Eastern Kentucky finished 9 of 9.

Eastern Kentucky guard Glenn Cosey entered play averaging 19.3 points per game and finished with 21, but he was held in check until late by redshirt junior guard Gasser, who continues to excel when asked to guard the opposing team's top scorer. Cosey had seven points on 2 of 6 shooting through the game's first 24 minutes, when Gasser came up a bit lame and exited for about two minutes.

"They're as disciplined as any defense I've ever seen," Colonels ninth-year head coach Jeff Neubauer said. "Our team has really competed in this type of venue, but we've never run across a team like that."