MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has simple rules for his defense.
Take away the other team’s tendencies. Stay in position. Force tough shots. Clean up the glass afterward.
Once again, the 14th-ranked Badgers proved they are good listeners.
Jared Berggren scored 13 points to lead four Wisconsin players in double figures as the Badgers beat Savannah State 66-33 on Thursday night.
It was the fourth time this season Wisconsin (10-2) held an opponent to 33 points or less, while allowing just two teams to get into the 60s.
“We stuck to our rules,” Ryan said simply of the effort of his Badgers, who came in giving up a national-best 44.7 points a game.
The Badgers were largely dominant from start to finish, save for a brief letup to start the second half.
Wisconsin used runs of 11-0 and 11-2 in the first half to push their lead to 30-10 with 4 minutes left. The Tigers (4-8) then looked like they might give Wisconsin a challenge early in the second half. They cut the lead to 15 points twice, the last time at 41-26 with just under 14 minutes to go.
But Wisconsin poured it on from there, reeling off a 23-4 run over the next 12 minutes before Ryan pulled the starters.
Cedric Smith and Arnold Lewis led the Tigers with eight points each.
Jordan Taylor and Ryan Evans scored 12 points apiece for Wisconsin, while Josh Gasser added 10.
It was the last time the Badgers played before final exams. They return to action Dec. 23 against Mississippi Valley State, and Taylor said the Badgers eased up to start the second half.
“Those are lapses we’re not going to be able to afford against other teams,” Taylor said.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, their numerous struggles offensively prevented them from taking advantage of the opening.
Shooting just 33 percent for the game, the lone bright spots for the Tigers were the 12 offensive rebounds that led to 10 second-chance points.
But that was about it. They had no outside presence, going 0 for 3 from 3-point range, even though the Tigers averaged 16 3-point attempts coming into the game. They also got to the free throw line just five times, hitting three.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of taking away what they posed as their threats,” Ryan said. “Every game you’re trying to do that.”
Savannah State regularly saw the Badgers capitalize on their mistakes, turning 16 turnovers into 24 points.
It didn’t help the Tigers’ cause that leading scorer Rashad Hassan committed his second foul less than 5 minutes into the game and was a nonfactor. He was also pulled early in the second half after missing a layup, not returning until midway through the period. Averaging 13 points a game coming in, he finished with six in just 12 minutes.
Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax said he limited Hassan’s minutes in the second half to send a message to the redshirt junior, who sat out last season. Rather than taking the layup that he missed early in the second half, Broadnax said he wanted Hassan to go strong to the hoop and try dunking the ball as he preaches in practice.
Likewise, he sat Preston Blackmon for a while to send a message over his failure to chase a loose ball. The guard is third on the team in scoring at 7.5 points a game, but he had just two points in 16 minutes.
“He’s going to be all right,” Broadnax said of Hassan. “We need him to play at a higher level at this level to be competitive. If he’s not going to do it, then he just needs to be an assistant coach for a while.”