Northwestern-Wisconsin Preview

BY foxsports • February 6, 2015

Yet another convincing victory has Wisconsin in control in the Big Ten, and a matchup with the last-place team in the conference gives it an excellent opportunity to solidify its lead.

The No. 5 Badgers try to keep rolling Saturday as they host a Northwestern squad that's lost eight in a row since being routed by Wisconsin last month.

The Badgers (20-2, 8-1) beat Indiana 92-78 on Tuesday for their fifth straight victory - a stretch in which they've outscored opponents 77.4-62.0 per game. Wisconsin turned an eight-point halftime lead into a 30-point rout with 10 minutes left, shooting 60.4 percent to up its season mark to 49.1 - 11th in the country.

Everyone in the Big Ten but the Badgers has at least three conference losses.

The winning streak has been powered by Frank Kaminsky, who has scored at least 21 points in five of his last six games while shooting 59.4 percent. Wisconsin's only loss in the past 14 contests, a 70-55 defeat at Rutgers on Jan. 11, came when he didn't play.

"Frank's a tough matchup, so people have done different things and he's smart enough, agile enough and astute enough to be able to recognize some things," coach Bo Ryan said. "His teammates have done a good job recognizing how to get the ball in to him, because he has got to be part of the offense, and he has been all year except for the game when he wasn't in."

The Badgers again relied on their big frontcourt to overwhelm opponents, as Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker shot a combined 19 for 24 against the Hoosiers. Every Wisconsin starter scored in double figures.

"It was fun. I've kind of been waiting for this. ... Frank and Nigel seemed to be open every time I touched the ball, so I tried to hit those guys," reserve guard Zak Showalter said after scoring a season-high nine points.

Wisconsin improved to 11-1 at the Kohl Center, where it's allowing 56.6 points per game with an average victory margin of 23.9.

The Badgers had won 14 in a row at home over Northwestern before getting stunned 65-56 by the Wildcats in Madison last Jan. 29. Kaminsky was limited to eight points and Wisconsin shot 26.3 percent while allowing Northwestern to hit 47.9.

The Badgers resumed their dominance of the series Jan. 4 with an 81-58 win at Evanston, holding the Wildcats to 39.3 percent from the field and making 52.6 percent themselves. They've won 13 of the last 15 matchups.

Northwestern (10-12, 1-8) hasn't won since, falling 76-60 at Nebraska on Tuesday for its longest skid since a nine-game slide to end the 2012-13 season. Before Tuesday, the Wildcats had managed to play Big Ten opponents tough, as their previous five defeats came by 18 points.

''We're a little beat down, no question about it,'' coach Chris Collins said. ''We had a stretch of five games as gut-wrenching as you can have. We are what we are. We have one win (in the Big Ten). To me, I feel we should have four or five.''

Northwestern, outscored 41-27 in the second half against Nebraska, got 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from Alex Olah. The center, averaging 11.0 points, had totaled 12 in his previous two games and will face a major challenge in fellow 7-footer Kaminsky and Wisconsin's deep frontcourt.

He rose to it last Jan. 2, scoring 23 in a 76-49 home loss to the Badgers, but had seven in each of the last two meetings.

Northwestern freshman Scottie Lindsey tied a season high with 12 points Tuesday in his fourth straight start.

Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser can pass Alando Tucker for the school record with his 127th start Friday.

''Toughness, leadership, work ethic. Does whatever is in the best interest of the team," associate head coach Greg Gard said of Gasser. "Doesn't care who gets the credit, as long as we're successful.''

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