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Wisconsin dumps slow-starting Nebraska

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Bo Ryan didn’t come out and say it to his team, but he knew Nebraska’s run was coming.

Ryan, the Wisconsin coach, was happy to see the Badgers persevere.

Forward Sam Dekker scored a season-high 21 points, and fifth-ranked Wisconsin held off a ferocious Nebraska rally for a 65-55 victory before 15,701 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday night.

“We always are trying to get ready (for a run), especially for a team at home,” Ryan said. “You get on a little bit of a roll, you get your pressure working a little bit, a couple of uncharacteristic decisions on the inbounds. But other than that, I liked the way we stayed the course at the end.”

Wisconsin (22-2, 10-1 Big Ten) completed a season sweep of Nebraska and opened a three-game conference lead over four teams tied for second place. Less than four weeks remain in the regular season.

Badgers center Frank Kaminsky, a candidate for Big Ten player of the year, finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He had 22 points in the Badgers’ first game against Nebraska, a 70-55 Wisconsin victory in Madison on Jan. 15.

Guard Terran Petteway scored 23 points and forward Shavon Shields scored 12 for Nebraska (13-11, 5-7). The Huskers trailed by 16 points with 7:25 remaining but cut the deficit to 58-53 on Petteway’s 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining.

That was as close as the offensively challenged Huskers got to Wisconsin, which put the game away at the free-throw line.

Nebraska scored fewer than 45 points in three of its previous four games, and the Huskers had only 13 points at halftime Tuesday. They rallied despite shooting just 35.5 percent from the floor for the game.

Wisconsin shot just 39.1 percent, its second straight game of shooting less than 40 percent.

“Nebraska had a little bit to do with taking some looks away that we were trying to get,” Ryan said. “Same thing on their end. We think we had a little bit to do with their shooting percentage. They had something to do with our shooting percentage.

“Fortunately, when a team’s playing from behind, they foul, and we went to the free-throw line and made a good number. That’s the only way you’re going to close one of those out.”

Wisconsin led by 14 points at halftime and opened its biggest lead of 17 points when guard Bronson Koenig (13 points) hit a 3-pointer to open the second half. The Badgers, with the help of one of Dekker’s two 3-pointers, pushed the margin back to 16 points after Nebraska pulled within 10.

Wisconsin entered the game leading the nation in fewest fouls (13.2 per game), fewest turnovers (7.5) and fewest opposing free-throw attempts per game (12.5). They also ranked 10th in scoring defense at 56.5 points per game.

The Badgers finished with 12 fouls and eight turnovers, and they held Nebraska to 10 free-throw attempts, none until 15:27 remained in the game.

“We were lethargic (in the first half), there was no doubt. They know Wisconsin is really good,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “(Wisconsin) is a league-champion-type of team. We did a lot of things to them, and they made a lot of right decisions. They didn’t make very many mistakes, just with making extra passes, finding guys, making free throws down the stretch. They showed a lot of veteran leadership.”

Wisconsin led 27-13 at halftime thanks in large part to Nebraska’s 21.8 percent shooting from the field, including 1-for-8 on 3-point attempts.

Nebraska scored fewer than 20 points in the first half for the fourth time in five games, and it posted 13 first-half points for a second straight game.

“We just had such a slow start,” Miles said. “We try to live at the rim, and when you’re not able to go in there and score — when you’re 2-for-12 at the rim (in the first half) and not at the free-throw line, it’s hard for us to score.”

The Badgers scored the game’s first seven points, and four of their first five field goals came in the paint, including two from Dekker on assists from Kaminsky.

Dekker had 13 first-half points on 6-of-10 shooting, and senior guard Josh Gasser, making his school-record 128th consecutive

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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