MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Alando Tucker looked for Pittsburgh to finally send a second man to try to guard him. Brian Butch was the reason the Panthers never did.
Tucker had 32 points and 10 rebounds and Butch added a career-high 27 points and had 11 rebounds as No. 7 Wisconsin beat No. 2 Pittsburgh 89-75 on Saturday, snapping the Panthers’ 21-game nonconference winning streak.
“I just always pick my points in a game,” Tucker said. “If a team’s not going to double me, I like that. If they’re not going to triple me, I like that. But if they do, I recognize I don’t have to put up big numbers as far as scoring.”
Tucker set a season high for scoring and rebounds and is averaging 25.2 points in his last four games. He and Butch put on a shooting display in the first half, each going 7-of-9 from the field and scoring 20 points. Butch said he knew his day would be special when he finally hit a 3-pointer.
“I haven’t hit many this year,” Butch said. “Once that one went down, I was pretty happy.”
The 6-foot-11 junior center had been 2-of-15 from beyond the arc this season before hitting a rainbow late in the first half. Moments later, Wisconsin closed the opening 20 minutes on a 10-3 run with the duo scoring all of the Badgers’ points in that span to take a 47-37 lead.
The rest of the Badgers got into the act in the second half in Wisconsin’s first victory over a team ranked higher than No. 7 since Bo Ryan took over the Badgers (11-1) in 2001.
“We’ve got a lot more fish to fry, we’ve got a lot more things to do than what’s happened to this point,” Ryan said he told the players after the game. “(But) that was a great performance, the guys played extremely hard and we can learn from this.”
Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon had never lost before Jan. 1 in a season, a streak of 44 games, but the Panthers (10-1) struggled despite a strong effort from 7-foot center Aaron Gray, the Big East’s preseason player of the year who was sick with strep throat.
But Butch’s performance easily outshadowed Gray.
“Butch came out and played the game of his life today,” Gray said. “It was on the scouting report. He hasn’t been shooting the ball real well (from 3-point range). I just got caught out of position and he really took advantage of it.”
After going scoreless over the first 10 minutes, Gray led the Panthers with 17 points and eight rebounds. It matched Gray’s season average for points and was just two off for rebounds, but Pittsburgh fell into a deep deficit it couldn’t overcome despite having five players finish in double digits.
Wisconsin kept a large lead through most of the second half and Tucker, the Big Ten’s preseason player of the year, extended the Badgers’ lead to 81-63 by hitting a 3-pointer over an outstretched Sam Young with 5:43 left.
Pittsburgh went on an 11-3 run after that, but never got back within 10 despite getting 16 points from Ronald Ramon, 13 from Mike Cook, 11 from Antonio Graves and 10 from Levance Fields.
The Panthers were just 12-of-34 from the field in the second half and Wisconsin took 33 free throw in the second half. The Badgers finished 31-of-44 from the line.
“The shots weren’t going in the second half,” Ramon said. “We just kept trying to fight it, get some stops on defense. Obviously, we just fouled a little too much, putting them on the line. They did a great job knocking shots down.”
Tucker started the game by scoring six of the Badgers’ first eight points in an 8-0 run, but Pittsburgh erased that and Gray gave the Panthers a 25-23 lead in the first half.
It wouldn’t last, because Tucker always seemed to be in the right spot.
One ball caromed to him during a scramble after he had been pushed off to the side, and he snagged it for a quick layup.
Off a miss by Gray, Tucker drove around a screen and went to the basket untouched for a 27-25 lead.
Butch got in the act, too, when he made a soft layup and followed it up with the first of his two 3s as the Badgers began pulling away.
In the second half, Butch had set his career high with 16:46 to play off an emphatic dunk, while Tucker didn’t make his first field goal until 7:31 left off a wild bank shot that drew a foul. With both players off the floor, Kammron Taylor took over the scoring for the Badgers and finished with 14 points.
It was Pittsburgh’s first nonconference road loss since Dec. 31, 2002, at Georgia, but it was the first time the Panthers had played a nonconference team ranked as high as Wisconsin on the road since losing at No. 5 Massachusetts in 1994.
Wisconsin improved to 81-5 at the Kohl Center under Ryan. It was only the third time the Badgers have beaten a team ranked No. 2 in 21 tries.