Dekker helps No. 4 Wisconsin rout Prairie View A&M
Badgers off to best start in a century
Frank Kaminsky's goal for the nonconference portion of Wisconsin's schedule was to go undefeated.
His expectation for the rest of the season is a Big Ten title.
Kaminsky left no doubt Saturday about No. 4 Wisconsin's mindset after the Badgers beat Prairie View A&M 80-43 in their last tune up before conference play starts.
"I think you talk to anyone in our locker room, they'll say the same thing," Kaminsky said. "We were so close last year. To not come away with it in the Big Ten tournament left a sour taste in our mouths. We really want it this year, and we're going to do everything we can to get that."
That may have seemed like bold talk heading into the season with Wisconsin needing to replace its entire starting front line after the departures of Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans. But Saturday's win gave Wisconsin (13-0) its best start since the 1913-14 squad went 15-0.
Coach Bo Ryan said he's proud of how the Badgers finished nonconference play, but he was quick to emphasize the task ahead with the Big Ten starts Thursday at Northwestern.
"We also know what happens with the workload now," Ryan said. "It's a lot heavier, a lot tougher."
Playing for the first time in two weeks, the Badgers were a little rusty from 3-point range. But everything else was working as they dominated at the free throw line and on the boards while committing just two turnovers.
Prairie View (2-10) went to a zone defense early, which helped slow down the Badgers somewhat offensively as they shot just 9 of 27 from behind the arc. They averaged making better than 40 percent of their 3s coming in.
But that defensive approach also seemed to open up holes in the Panthers' defense when it came to the glass. Wisconsin outrebounded Prairie View 42-25 while turning 16 offensive rebounds into 19 points.
"Sometimes, a zone will allow that to happen, not that it tries to," Ryan said. "But again, we did have a height advantage, but that doesn't always mean you're going to rebound. But we were opportunistic. We moved our feet. I thought we got in good position to get the misses that were out there."
Prairie View A&M coach Byron Rimm said he thought the Panthers could use their lack of size to drive against the Badgers. But that didn't translate to the free throw line, where they were just 3 of 4 compared to Wisconsin's 21 of 28.
Though the Panthers weren't terribly sloppy with the ball, committing 13 turnovers, Wisconsin turned those mistakes into 17 points. Prairie View only had two points off the Badgers' two turnovers.
"I hate to say it, but it's almost like a glorified practice for us to see if we can get some stuff done," said Rimm, whose team went 1-8 on a nine-game road swing. "We are still trying to win the game, but we've got to be realistic at a game like this."
Montrael Scott scored 14 to lead the Panthers, who return home Jan. 4 to take on Southern in the Panthers' conference opener.
The Badgers opened the game by outscoring Prairie View 23-6 over the first 10 minutes and were never challenged.
Sam Dekker scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, his third career double-double, to lead the Badgers, while Ben Brust added 11. Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes each scored 10 points apiece with Kaminsky adding seven rebounds and Hayes three blocks.
Still, it was Hayes' alley oop to Dekker in the second half that had the players buzzing after the game. With the two of them on a fast break, Hayes lofted the ball over a defender and well off the rim to Dekker, who reached back with one hand fully extended to slam it down.
Ryan said he caught "a lot of eyes looking up at the replay thing while we were sitting there at the timeout" that followed the dunk, adding he had no idea how Dekker was able to catch the ball.
Hayes, somewhat in jest, said there was a reason behind the somewhat off target pass, saying if he put it close to the rim for a Dekker dunk, the best the highlight would have done was the nightly news in Wisconsin.
"If I throw the ball high, almost out of bounds, behind the backboard, Sam dunks it, we're talking SportsCenter top 10," Hayes said. "So, you know, all credit to Sam. Thanks for making me look good."
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