Perhaps out to prove their place among the top five teams in college basketball, the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers laid waste to the Northwestern Wildcats in the Big Ten opener for both teams, winning 76-49 on Thursday.
The Wildcats led 5-4 early, showing patience on offense and forcing a few wasted Wisconsin possessions. Then Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker turned up the heat. Hayes scored 13 points in the first half on his way to 19 for the game. The Badgers shot 59 percent to a 40-14 halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.
Dekker pitched in 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting, with eight rebounds. For the game, the Badgers outrebounded the Wildcats 37-26. They also had 17 assists to just four turnovers in an efficient performance. The Badgers shot 64.3 percent inside the three-point arc. Hayes was 8-for-12 for the game.
Alex Olah was the brightest spot for the Wildcats. The 7-footer from Romania had a game-high 23 points, exposing a lack of bulk in Wisconsin's frontcourt that could prove troublesome for the Badgers down the road. Overall, however, Wisconsin proved they have the depth of scorers to be a force in March.
With the win, the Badgers improved to 14-0. They will face a much stiffer challenge from the Iowa Hawkeyes at home this Sunday. The Wildcats fell to 7-7 on the season. They take on Michigan on the road this Sunday.