Wisconsin basketball: Badgers blowout

Ben Brust scores 18 points as Wisconsin improves to 11-0

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 12:00 am

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin men's basketball team has reached rare territory, and they're not ready to stop the thrills of this joy ride quite yet.

Ben Brust scored a game-high 18 points to lead No. 4-ranked Wisconsin to a 78-52 victory over UW-Milwaukee on Wednesday night at the Kohl Center, its biggest margin of victory this season. The Badgers are off to an 11-0 start for the first time since the 1993-94 season, when they also opened 11-0.

It's just the second time Wisconsin has climbed into The Associated Press top five. That other squad reached No. 1 in the 2006-07 season.

"Yay for the team," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "Our guys have played good teams. They get credit. You get credit for what you've done to this point. It's like in class when you do the assignments you get credit for it. You get stars on your paper or a pat on the back. When you stop doing well it goes the other way. So far to this point we've found a way to get a lot of things done. We're 11 games into it but we have a lot of work to do."

Wisconsin has built an impressive resume this season. The Badgers were the first team in the nation to reach 10 wins and did so against teams with a combined record of 53-22 (.707 win percentage). Wisconsin already owns five wins over the ESPN.com RPI top 50 and eight wins over the RPI top 100. No other team in the nation has more than two RPI top-50 wins.

"It's definitely something that's good," Brust said. "We have a good start being 11-0. We still know it's going to get much, much harder going forward. We've been challenged many different ways: high scoring, low scoring, ranked teams, neutral floors, road games. But it all resets come January."

After Milwaukee (9-3) opened with an early lead, the Badgers rallied as Frank Kaminsky drilled a long 3-pointer at the top of the key to tie the game at 7. Then Brust took over, scoring 13 straight points for the Badgers to give them a 20-9 lead they would not relinquish. The senior guard was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field in the first half, and 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Wisconsin finished the first half 16-for-25, or 64 percent, from the field.

"Ben's definitely one of those guys that can get really hot really quick and can change the complexion of the whole game," said Sam Dekker, who finished with 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds. "He's such a hot shooter. You keep finding him and hit the guy that's grooving at that time. When you've got a shooter like that you've got to give him the green light and have him keep it going."

Austin Arians hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help an 8-0 Panthers run that cut Wisconsin's lead to 55-37 with 14:26 to play, but the Panthers couldn't climb much closer than that shooting 42.6 percent (20 of 47) from the field.

"You can't spot the No. 4-ranked team in the country 20 points and in the second half expect to cut into a team like Wisconsin," Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said. "We saw first-hand tonight that all five (starters) can make shots. The way they made shots in the first half was impressive.

"They're talented, they're poised, they're confident. I know they're very good, obviously, being ranked. One of the best teams Bo's had at this time."

Brust's nice fake dish and scoop lay-in was part of a 10-0 Badgers run that expanded the lead to 71-45 with 5 minutes to play. Kaminsky finished with 16 points, while Traevon Jackson added 12. Wisconsin took full advantage of Milwaukee's miscues, scoring 28 points off of 19 Panthers' turnovers.

"The defense did a good job getting hands on passes and creating turnovers," Ryan said. "We knew we were in for a battle inside. I thought our guys did a pretty good job getting deflections and turning those into points. Those were huge."

Wisconsin's starters -- Dekker, Brust, Kaminsky, Jackson and Josh Gasser -- all have proven tough to defend. Dekker gets the most attention, averaging 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, but Kaminsky has been the unsung hero.

The 7-foot matchup nightmare is one of just five players ranked among the top 16 of the Big Ten's scoring and rebounding lists (along with Dekker), leading the Badgers with 14.7 points and adding 5.7 rebounds per game. Kaminsky holds the highest single-game scoring effort in all of Division I this season with his 43-point outburst in a win over North Dakota on Nov. 19.

All five of Wisconsin's starters have led the team in scoring in at least one game this season and heading into Wednesday's game, the Badgers were the only team in the Big Ten to have five players averaging in double figures, although Gasser slipped to 9.7 ppg after Wednesday night. The multiple scoring threats have been a huge factor in the team's undefeated record.

"It's a great thing, obviously you don't want to be 0-11," Dekker said. "It feels good and it's rewarding. But we can't let our struggles keep reoccurring come Big Ten time, those will really stick out worse. The more we get down pat the better off we'll be."

Wisconsin has proven it can win in any style this season, topping 80 points in three games and grinding out a defensive win, 48-38, at Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Badgers' scoring average (73.6 ppg) is up 8.6 points from last season, while the 38 points allowed at Virginia were Wisconsin's fewest given up in a road game since 1957.

Kyle Kelm led Milwaukee with 17 points, while Matt Tiby added 11. Former Cuba City (Wis.) prep Evan Richard checked into the game with 3:22 to play, going 0-for-1 shooting and registering one rebound and one foul.

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