Jan. 2, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern could not overcome a poor shooting performance in the first half Thursday evening, while No. 4/5 Wisconsin was making nearly every shot in sight as the visiting Badgers captured the Big Ten opener for both squads at Welsh-Ryan Arena, 76-49.
Like the messy weather outside the gym, the Wildcats (7-7, 0-1 B1G) got off to a cold start in the first Big Ten ballgame of the Chris Collins era and the undefeated Badgers (14-0, 1-0 B1G) certainly capitalized. NU turned the ball over just seven times in the game, including only twice in the second half. The seven turnovers matched a season low, but the shooting woes proved too costly to overcome.
Northwestern's Alex Olah led all scorers in the game with a career-high 23 points and Drew Crawford added 10 for the 'Cats. Both players secured a team-high six rebounds and Olah added a pair of blocked shots.
Though it took good care of the basketball in the early going, Northwestern could not find the bottom of the basket with regularity in the first half. The Wildcats shot 26.1 percent, but on the other end of the floor, the Badgers seemingly could not miss. Wisconsin opened the game by making just two of its first eight shots over the first five-plus minutes, but closed the frame out by hitting 14 of its next 19 efforts to close the half at an eye-popping clip of 59.3 percent.
Wisconsin freshman Nigel Hayes came off the bench for the Badgers and provided an offensive spark that helped turn an early one-point deficit into a seven-point lead for the visitors. Hayes' bucket in the lane gave Wisconsin a 12-5 lead with 10:16 remaining in the half and it prompted Collins to call a timeout. After the quick stoppage, Olah scored and was fouled, but the center missed the free throw attempt and Wisconsin went on a second 8-0 run that pushed its lead to 20-7. Later, with 6:46 to go in the frame, JerShon Cobb sliced through the middle and buried a floater to end the home team's extended scoring drought. The Badgers led at the break, 40-14.
The Badgers continued to impose their relentless style of play on NU in the second half. Though they shot the ball at a slightly reduced clip in the closing 20 minutes, Wisconsin was still above the 50-percent mark.
Olah kept working hard and fighting on both ends of the floor in the second half. After scoring seven points and grabbing a rebound in the first half, the Romanian big man added 16 more points to go along with five rebounds and a pair of blocks in the second stanza. The center also had success in defending both Hayes and Frank Kaminsky at times. Hayes was held to six points in the second half, while Kaminsky, who entered play averaging over 14 points per game, scored only nine points all night.
Olah became the fifth different Wildcat this season to score 20-or-more points in a game thus far this season. Crawford has done so three times to date, while Cobb has done it twice. The backcourt tandem of Dave Sobolewski and Tre Demps each have one 20-plus performance apiece.
The Wildcats will hit the road for the first time in just over a month on Sunday, January 5 when the team treks to Ann Arbor, Mich. to battle the Michigan Wolverines inside the Crisler Center at 11 a.m. CT. The contest will be televised live on the Big Ten Network with Eric Collins and former Northwestern standout Shon Morris on the call.
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