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Wisconsin 65, Nebraska 55: What went well

Wisconsin held on for a statement win at Nebraska behind a career-high 21 points from junior Sam Dekker, marking the best start in program history.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

With the help of its mercurial swingman and some stout defense, No. 5 Wisconsin jumped out to a big halftime lead over Nebraska to help the Badgers (22-2, 10-1 Big Ten) record the best start in program history with a 65-55 win.

In doing so, the Badgers avenged last season's loss to the Cornhuskers (13-11, 5-7) at the Pinnacle Bank Arena "Vault" and reaffirmed their message that the road to the league title goes through Madison.

Here's what went right for Wisconsin in its hard-fought, 10-point victory in Lincoln.

Man of the Match: Sam Dekker

Stat line: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 TO, 8-of-13 FGs, 2-of-4 FTs

Sam Dekker looked good early, and not just offensively. He slipped behind the defense for two easy alley-oop layups from Frank Kaminsky to jump start his evening, but also played smart defense on Shavon Shields. All while clearly battling a lingering lower leg injury that kept him out of practice earlier in the week.

While the extended Husker defense shut down Wisconsin's outside shooting, Dekker's offense carried the Badgers throughout the first half, when he scored 10 of his 13 points in the paint. The junior forward continued to take advantage of mismatches, such as against the smaller Benny Parker in the post. His defense on Shields essentially made Nebraska a one-trick pony in the first half. And that pony, Terran Petteway, was ice cold.

Dekker eventually hit two of Wisconsin's five three-pointers, each of which helped stave off building Nebraska momentum in the second half. He was aggressive on offense, equalling the career high he set against West Virginia as a sophomore. Dekker also shut the door on the Cornhusker comeback with a huge one-armed rebound and free throws in the final minute.

A "fast" start

The first six-and-a-half minutes of the game went by pretty fast, thanks to referees swallowing the whistle and a lack of turnovers. Even though the clock was moving briskly, the scoreboard was not getting much of a workout otherwise, with Wisconsin leading just 11-4 at the first media timeout. Behind Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers turned that into a a 10-point lead moments later before going cold as Bo Ryan gave a few of his starters a rest.

Thanks to the early cushion Wisconsin was able to rely on its defense for the remainder of the low-scoring half, building a 27-13 lead by the break. When Nebraska started to clamp down defensively down the stretch, the Huskers couldn't get within six points despite some nervous moments UW had inbounding against their press.

Wisconsin hit the glass ... in the first half

Ignore for a moment the final statistics which show a subpar rebounding team, in Nebraska, posting numbers well above it's Big Ten average against Wisconsin. The Huskers were in berserker mode by the end. Instead think about Nebraska shooting only 21 percent in the first half. It was crucial for the Badgers to gobble up caroms and prevent offensive rebounds. Nebraska has the second-best defense in the conference, so you knew Wisconsin was going to be in another slugfest before the final horn sounded.

The Badgers matched the Huskers with six second-chance points in the first half by grabbing 36 percent of their own misses, led by two apiece by Dekker and Zak Showalter of all people. Josh Gasser took care of things on the other end, snagging six defensive boards.

Making free throws when it matters

This is a trait Wisconsin has possessed all season -- one you'd hope for and expect with a senior backcourt -- and it looks like it's continuing in the Bronson Koenig era.

One of the most impressive takeaways from the win was Wisconsin's ability to guard and recover without fouling for the most part. Until guys like Petteway and Tai Webster started diving at the hoop and picking up touch fouls, UW was basically pitching a shutout at the free throw line. Nebraska didn't attempt a freebie until after halftime and finished 7-of-10 from the charity stripe.

By the end, Wisconsin had made 24-of-31 (77.4%) free throws, including its last seven in the final minute to seal the win.


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