Fifth-ranked Badgers fend off Cornhuskers
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan knew it wouldn't be easy for his fifth-ranked Badgers to get out of Pinnacle Bank Arena with a victory.
Nebraska was 13-2 in Big Ten games since moving into the building last season, so even when the Huskers were down 15 points with under four minutes to play, Ryan suspected they would make one more run.
Ryan was right, but the Badgers managed to hang for a 65-55 win Tuesday night after their lead shrank to five with a minute to play.
"We knew it was coming," Ryan said. "Coaches always have it in the back of their mind. We're not going to tell the players, of course, that they're going to cut it to five, six or seven. But we're always trying to get ready, especially against a team at home. You get on a roll, get pressure working a little bit, and then we make a couple uncharacteristic decisions on the inbound. Other than that, I liked the way we stayed the course at the end."
Sam Dekker matched his career high with 21 points, and Wisconsin (22-2, 10-1 Big Ten) won its seventh straight game and extended its lead in the Big Ten to three games over the four teams tied for second place. The Cornhuskers (13-11, 5-7) lost for the fourth time in five games.
"This is one of the best teams in the Big Ten at home. If you look at their home record throughout the whole season, it's significantly better at home than on the road, and we knew that coming in and we knew they'd feed off their crowd," said Frank Kaminsky, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds. "We were able to neutralize it."
Terran Petteway had 21 points for Nebraska but had to take 24 shots to get them, and Shavon Shields finished with 12 points.
"He had to work for all his," said Josh Gasser, who guarded Petteway. "You could tell he was frustrated the whole game. We weren't letting him get anything easy."
The Badgers led by double digits most of the game until Tai Webster ignited Nebraska's final run with a three-point play and layup after a turnover to make it 52-42. It was 58-53 with a minute left after Petteway converted a three-point play and made a 3-pointer.
"We had them on their heels," Nebraska forward Leslee Smith said. "We fought. That's all that really matters is we know we can be a good team if we stick together."
Wisconsin went the last 4:53 without a field goal and was just 6 of 17 from the field in the second half. But the Badgers, who shot 39 percent for the game, made 24 of 31 free throws and 15 of their last 18 to improve their road record to 10-1.
"We weren't getting easy looks," Kaminsky said. "They were double-teaming more in the second half. Sam got three or four backdoor cuts in the first half. They shored up their defense and we had to find other ways to score."
The Badgers, who beat the Huskers 70-55 in Madison last month, swept the season series and avenged a 77-68 loss in Lincoln in last season's final regular-season game. Last year's upset of the then-No. 9 Badgers in Lincoln, played before an amped sellout crowd, clinched the Huskers' first NCAA tournament berth since 1998.