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    No. 15 Wisconsin Outlasts Northwestern, 57-45

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM David Newman defends against<BR>Wisconsin Wednesday night.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    David Newman defends against
    Wisconsin Wednesday night.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    February 10, 1999

    Box Score

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The last time Wisconsin won 20 games in a season, the Badgers won the NCAA championship. That was in 1941.

    Coach Dick Bennett isn't predicting a repeat of history, but he doesn't deny the significance of hitting the 20-win mark for just the third time in school history.

    "It's big league ... that's the magic number," said Bennett, after the 15th-ranked Badgers' 57-45 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night.

    "That's got to be big here. I don't see too many of those in the book."

    Wisconsin (20-5, 8-4 Big Ten) finished with a flourish, scoring the last 15 points of the game to snap a two-game losing streak. The 20 victories tie the school record set in 1915-16 and matched in 1940-41.

    "That's something special and rare," Bennett said. "Last week I said I didn't think we were in the (NCAA) tournament, so don't assume anything. I'll admit I feel a little better about that now."

    But No. 20 didn't come easy for the Badgers, who blew a 17-point second-half lead in losing to Illinois on Saturday.

    This time the Badgers frittered away a 14-point lead and trailed 45-42 after a 3-pointer by Steve LePore with 6:55 remaining.

    But that would be the last points the Wildcats (14-7, 6-5) would score, as they missed their last eight shots and committed three turnovers down the stretch.

    Ty Calderwood, who led Wisconsin with 13 points, scored eight of them down the stretch. He ignited the rally with a steal and a layup to cut the Northwestern lead to 45-44. Mark Vershaw then hit four straight free throws and Calderwood hit a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Badgers ahead 51-45.

    Wisconsin put the game away, hitting six of eight free throws.

    "This was a ballgame we really needed and at that point of the game we needed to lean on our defense," Calderwood said. "I think that stretch was by far our best defense of the season."

    The Badgers had 13 steals, three by Calderwood.

    They also succeeded in containing center Evan Eschmeyer, who was held without a field goal in the first half but still finished with 16 points, five under his Big Ten average.

    "I love playing against Evan," said Wisconsin's Charlie Wills, who shared the defensive duties with Andy Kowske and Vershaw. "He always gives you a great battle in there. We just tried to keep the ball out of his hands and he didn't get a lot of touches the last six minutes, which really helped us pull away."

    Northwestern shot just 15.8 percent in the first half (3-for-19) as Wisconsin built a 25-16 lead.

    The Badgers extended the lead to 30-16 in the first minute of the second half on a dunk by Maurice Linton and a 3-pointer by Calderwood.

    But Northwestern answered with a 24-8 run, taking its first lead of the game, 40-38, on a jump hook by Eschmeyer.

    "I was real happy with the way our team came back in the second half," Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill said. "Wisconsin finished the game and they deserved to win. Tonight we didn't finish.

    "We have won a lot of close games, but it was not to be tonight. Calderwood's 3-pointer in the corner really hurt us and then they did a good job on the defensive end."