MADISON, Wis. (AP)—With Alando Tucker viewing most of Wisconsin’s latest dominating performance from the bench, Brian Butch finally came through against a conference foe.
Butch and Tucker scored 16 points each and No. 2 Wisconsin beat Michigan 71-58 on Wednesday night to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 16 games, breaking a 66-year school record.
The victory also matches Wisconsin’s best start in school history at 20-1 as the Badgers improved to 6-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 1913-14 team was 12-0.
“We can’t stop now, it’s only a taste of what we want,” Tucker said. “We get that taste right now, but we know we have a chance to go so far, and if we keep working hard we can get there.”
Tucker finished 6-of-9 from the field and scored 13 points in the second half, most after the game was decided and he only played 18 minutes, his fewest in three years because of foul trouble early and the blowout late.
Instead, it was Butch, who had averaged 6.7 points in 30 career Big Ten games, who came alive early in the second half.
In one 4-minute stretch, Butch had five points, two rebounds, a steal and an assist as Wisconsin stretched a seven-point halftime lead to 47-31 with 13:16 left and led by as many as 24 in the second half.
“They really extended and overplayed (on defense),” Butch said. “You just want to try to put them in some bad positions defensively where even if you didn’t have a shot or something, you were able to create a passing lane or another way to get another player the ball.”
Michigan (16-5, 4-2) never came close in the second half until the final margin. Lester Abram scored 10 points and Courtney Sims finished with 16 for the Wolverines, but he also committed seven of Michigan’s 19 turnovers.
“It’s no question that we had silly turnovers and that was one of the things we talked about coming in here,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “When you play on the road, you have to take care of the basketball and we weren’t very good at that tonight.”
Michigan opened the game on a 9-0 run, the Badgers’ biggest deficit in a victory this season. Wisconsin has trailed for only 81:39 of the 645 minutes played during its winning streak.
Wisconsin went the first 3:40 without a field goal, but after Tucker hit a short runner in the lane it took 3 minutes for the Badgers to wipe out Michigan’s lead.
“That’s the nice thing about having some seniors and juniors that have been able to play and play through situations like that before,” said Butch, a junior.
The Wolverines went cold midway through the half, scoring just four field goals—including one on a goaltending call—from the 10:12 mark on.
That let Wisconsin build its lead to as many as 10 in the first half thanks in part to a 9-0 run with Tucker on the bench, highlighted when Marcus Landry bobbled the ball before finding Kammron Taylor, who hit an open 3-pointer.
Michigan committed 12 turnovers in the first half, but the Badgers were sloppy, too, with seven to equal the total number they had in each of the previous two games.
Still, the Wolverines couldn’t answer as the Badgers led 33-26 at the half after Landry emphatically blocked Jerret Smith’s layup at the buzzer. Smith left in the second half after appearing to hurt his neck running into a hard, legal screen by Landry. Amaker didn’t have an update on the sophomore guard after the game.
The Wolverines don’t want to repeat last year’s collapse, when they went 2-7 down the stretch and failed to make the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive season. Wisconsin fans reminded the Wolverines of their struggles, chanting “N-I-T” in the closing minutes.
Michigan had hoped to put on a stronger performance against a ranked opponent after getting washed out by then-No. 1 UCLA 92-55 on Dec. 23.
The Badgers’ only loss came to Missouri State, 66-64, in November in South Padre Island Invitational after trailing by as many as 19 in that game. Butch said that their winning streak since then isn’t worth dwelling on.
“In the grand scheme of things it really means nothing,” Butch said. “Those are all great things to achieve, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to downplay them, but right now we’re on a mission.”