MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Delaware State went slow and small against Wisconsin, so Alando Tucker took over.
Tucker scored 25 points and Brian Butch added 18 to lead the seventh-ranked Badgers to a 64-52 victory Tuesday night in the South Padre Island Invitational.
Tucker scored 10 straight points for Wisconsin (4-0) during one stretch and the Badgers fought through Delaware State’s attempts to slow the tempo, refusing to get frustrated and sticking to their strengths.
“You have to pick your points,” Tucker said. “I think the problem with most teams is they fall into that trap. They try to rush their shots on the offensive end because they’ve been playing defense for 35 seconds. I think we did a good job of keeping our composure.”
Wisconsin came in averaging 81 points in three relatively easy wins to open the season. But Delaware State (1-4) slowed the tempo by waiting 15 seconds into the 35-second shot clock before running any plays. The Hornets also played a small lineup, with four of their five starters 6-foot-6 or less and the fifth at 6-foot-9.
Delaware State coach Greg Jackson said he knew if nothing else his game plan would at least make it more of a game than the Badgers’ 92-39 win over Southern on Sunday.
“We had to limit their possessions to give ourselves a chance. We felt by shortening the game and not allowing them to have opportunities on the offensive end, it gave us the opportunity to have a chance,” Jackson said. “We just turned the ball over in key situations.”
The plan worked reasonably well early as the Hornets shot 65 percent in the first half and trailed only 39-35 with just under 14 minutes left. But they hit only three of their first 13 shots in the second half, and the slowdown strategy often resulted in rushed attempts at the end of the shot clock.
As Delaware State began to struggle, Wisconsin used a 9-0 run to build a double-digit lead with 9:23 to go on a pair of free throws by Tucker.
That started his stretch of 10 points in five possessions, and the Badgers didn’t allow their lead to dip below eight the rest of the way.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan responded to Delaware State’s decision to go small by sitting 6-10 starter Jason Chappell for most of the game, while 6-11 reserve Greg Stiemsma didn’t play.
At the same time, Ryan kept the 6-11 Butch on the floor to create matchup problems in the lane, where Wisconsin dominated with 44 points compared to 16 for the Hornets. Butch grabbed 10 rebounds for the fourth double-double of his career.
“You’re going to be limited on possessions, so you better guard and get your better feet on the floor,” Ryan said. “That’s what we did, and it made the difference in the game.”
Roy Bright and Jahsha Bluntt each scored 18 points to lead Delaware State, the defending champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
The Hornets open the season by playing 19 of their first 21 games on the road, including stops at Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Purdue, Marquette, Michigan and South Carolina State.
This game was the second of two home games Wisconsin was guaranteed as part of the invitational. The Badgers now head to South Padre Island, Texas, where they play Missouri State on Friday.
The Hornets play Southern on Saturday.