MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Once Wisconsin showed patience, it found its offense.
Alando Tucker had 20 points and seven rebounds and the 21st-ranked Badgers overcame a slow start to beat Northwestern 68-52 Saturday and remain the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play.
Northwestern (9-6, 2-2) came into the game with the stingiest defense in the conference and was averaging a league-low 11.7 turnovers a game.
But Wisconsin (14-2, 4-0) used a first-half flurry to build a double-digit lead, went on another run in the second half to put it away and forced Northwestern into 19 turnovers.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said the Badgers tried to rush things early, looking for the quick shot rather than the best shot.
“If you don’t show some patience against Northwestern, they’ll just eat you up,” Ryan said. “You’ll be scratching your head wondering what happened.”
Northwestern employed a full-court press and a trapping defense with some success early.
The press often forced the ball into the hands of 6-foot-11 Brian Butch, and Wisconsin was unable to get into its offense smoothly. When it did, things didn’t always go well.
Averaging just over 12 turnovers a game, the Badgers committed eight in the first half.
But the Wildcats were unable to capitalize on their chances because of the turnovers and poor shooting, hitting just 35 percent for the game.
“They had a stretch where they turned the ball over a bunch of times, but we were doing the same thing on the other end, so it’s only a matter of time before they get going, and they did that,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said.
Wisconsin finally broke out of the sloppy play in the final 4 minutes of the first half, when they were up 21-18. The Badgers went on a 13-2 run that Tucker capped when he stole an inbound pass under the Northwestern basket, drove the length of the court and scored in traffic to put the Badgers up 34-20.
They led 37-25 at halftime and Kammron Taylor hit a 3-pointer for Wisconsin to open the second half. The Wildcats got no closer than seven points the rest of the game.
Taylor finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for the Badgers, while Ray Nixon added 13 points.
Vedran Vukusic led Northwestern with 15 points, while Craig Moore added 14.
Wisconsin was expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten after losing most of its offense from last year’s team, especially with only one senior on the roster. But the Badgers head into Tuesday’s game at No. 19 Ohio State alone atop the conference.
Taylor said the Badgers are coming together quicker than many people expected, especially with four freshmen seeing a lot of playing time.
But he’s not surprised.
“It was just something about this team, starting last summer when everyone was here, that it just felt like it was going to be a special season,” he said.