MADISON, Wis. (AP)—On a relatively quiet night for star player Alando Tucker, it was up to Brian Butch to provide the acrobatic fireworks for No. 4 Wisconsin.
Whatever acrobatic fireworks a 6-foot-11 center can muster, anyway.
Butch came up with an improbable steal and breakaway dunk—OK, it was more like a lumber-away dunk—to help the Badgers beat Pacific 83-47 on Saturday.
“He actually separated from the guy behind him,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “I thought that was pretty good stuff.”
It was pretty good stuff all around for Wisconsin (12-1), which dominated in its first game since beating then-No. 2 Pittsburgh a week ago. That victory vaulted the Badgers to their highest-ever national ranking.
After a week off to take finals, Kammron Taylor credited fellow seniors Tucker and Jason Chappell with keeping the team focused.
“Having that week off and taking finals, a lot of teams let down,” said Taylor, who led the Badgers with 17 points. “But Tuck being a leader, he just stayed on everybody.”
Four Wisconsin players scored in double figures. Tucker added 15 points, and Butch and Joe Krabbenhoft had 11 each.
Ryan was generally pleased with the way his players handled the hype.
“I think the statement of how they handled it is how they played,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it was a negative. I don’t know how much of a positive it was.”
Steffan Johnson had 16 points for Pacific (3-9), which has lost its last six games, a streak that includes three losses to ranked teams.
“I think they had command pretty much all the way,” Tigers coach Bob Thomason said.
With the blizzard conditions in the Denver area earlier this week, Pacific had trouble getting into Madison and didn’t arrive until 1 a.m. on Saturday— although Thomason noted that several other flights headed this way were canceled.
“Maybe the governor of Wisconsin called and said, ‘Don’t cancel that one. Get Pacific here, we know they’re not very good right now,”’ Thomason said.
Wisconsin held a comfortable lead for the entire game and steadily pulled away in the second half. The Badgers led 41-31 4 minutes into the second half— then outscored Pacific 42-16 the rest of the way.
Reserve guard Jason Bohannon hit a 3-pointer to give the Badgers a 20-point lead with 11:08 remaining.
Butch then stole the ball from Tigers forward Ben Pemberton at the top of the key, and lumbered down the floor—all 245 pounds of him—for a two-handed breakaway dunk to put the Badgers up 59-37 with 10:39 remaining.
Butch wasn’t made available to the media after the game, but his coach and teammates had plenty of fun with him.
Ryan joked that Butch could have been whistled for a 10-second call.
“It looked like slow motion to me,” Tucker said.
The undersized Tigers struggled to guard the Badgers inside, and Wisconsin outscored Pacific 28-10 in the paint.
When the Badgers didn’t score inside, they went to the free-throw line.
Wisconsin finished 26-of-32 at the line—including 20-of-23 in the second half—and Pacific was 6-for-11.
Pacific center Michael White picked up his fourth foul 1:44 into the second half, and forward Anthony Esparza got his fourth foul at the 16:03 mark.
“When you shoot that well and get to the free-throw line that much it’s pretty hard,” Thomason said.
It was a relatively quiet night for Tucker, who came into the game as the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 21.2 points per game.
Tucker had scored 20 or more points in his previous four games, including a season-high 32 in the Badgers’ 89-75 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday.
But it didn’t matter, as Wisconsin never really was challenged.
The Badgers hit their first eight shots of the game, jumping to a 16-2 lead before Krabbenhoft missed at the 13:12 mark. But the Badgers cooled off near the end of the half and led 36-24 at halftime.
Pacific’s six-game losing streak includes losses to then-No. 8 Texas A&M on Dec. 2 and then-No. 21 Nevada on Dec. 16.
Forward Anthony Brown came into Saturday’s game averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game, but the Badgers held him to five points on 2-for-9 shooting.