Badgers finish 16-0 at Kohl Center
After watching No. 12 Wisconsin beat Northwestern,
78-63, on Sunday to go unbeaten at home for the third time in his tenure, Ryan said the idea of maintaining home-court advantage isn’t something he emphasizes to his players—or even mentions to them.
“It never was in a conversation that we had,” the coach said. “All I said after the game was we closed out the home portion of the schedule. Now we still have games to play. But I’ve never talked about it.”
Jon Leuer scored 26 points to lead the Badgers (22-6, 12-4 Big Ten) past a hot-shooting Wildcats team that used three-pointers to stay in the game.
Wisconsin went 16-0 at the Kohl Center this season—the third time in 10 seasons under Ryan that the Badgers were untouchable on their home court.
“When we’re at the Kohl Center, we don’t plan on losing,” Leuer said. “Ever. This team did that this year, and I think that’s one of our goals.”
Jordan Taylor scored 16 points and Keaton Nankivil added 15 for Wisconsin, which has won seven of eight overall. The Badgers finish the regular season with a pair of road games, at Indiana on Thursday and at Ohio State on Sunday.
Wisconsin’s student section chanted “Thank you, seniors” as Ryan emptied his bench in the final minute. The Badgers then showed video tributes to the seniors after the game.
“It was definitely a good way to go out,” Leuer said.
Michael Thompson scored 19 and Davide Curletti 18 for Northwestern (16-12, 6-11), which has lost two straight and four of six.
And while winning at home might be the Badgers’ calling card, Thompson said they’re a tough team to play anywhere.
“I think it’s just more a product of the team,” Thompson said. “Wisconsin, they’re really good, especially playing at home. They’re well coached, and it’s definitely tough to play anywhere on the road in the Big Ten.”
Northwestern seemed to be on the verge of being blown out at several points throughout the game, but managed to keep things close with strong outside shooting. The Wildcats made 11 of 21 three-pointers, with Thompson hitting five of six and John Shurna making four of seven.
Ryan said Northwestern’s outside shooting can demoralize opponents.
“When you prepare for them, you talk about those kind of runs,” Ryan said. “You really do. I’ve seen them do that to other teams, and the other team gets down, the other team gets a little disjointed. And they’re going to do that at times. They’re going to go through those streaks.”
The Wildcats know they can shoot. Now they need to get better on defense.
“Definitely, that’s the big thing for us,” Thompson said. “When we get stops that makes us an even better team. Everybody on our team is pretty good at making shots, and we spread the ball around pretty good. So defense, that’s a key for us.”
Already leading by 13 at halftime, Wisconsin remained firmly in control to begin the second half—including a flashy play by Leuer, who snagged a sharp pass from Taylor out of the air and converted a two-handed reverse dunk to put the Badgers up 51-35 with 16:18 left.
The Wildcats cut the Badgers’ lead to 54-47 on a three-pointer by Thompson with 12:25 left, and later trimmed it to 57-52 on a three-pointer by Drew Crawford.
Northwestern finally hit a cold spell down the stretch, missing 3s on critical back-to-back possessions. Taylor then nailed a three on the other end, putting the Badgers up 63-55 with 5:35 left.
Taylor sealed the victory with another three to put Wisconsin up 70-59 with 3 minutes to go.
Despite a handful of runs by the Wildcats, Taylor said he wasn’t worried.
“I just felt like we were always in control, especially the way Jon was playing,” Taylor said.
Wisconsin was coming off a last-second victory at Michigan on Wednesday, when Josh Gasser banked in a last-second three-pointer. Gasser had a triple-double in the Badgers’ 78-46 victory at Northwestern on Jan. 23 but was a little more quiet on Sunday, scoring 10 points.
Northwestern was trying to rebound from a home loss to Penn State on Thursday night.
The Badgers have won 19 straight at home, a streak that dates back to last season. Ryan might not preach home-court advantage, but he knows his players are aware of it.
“They can read, they listen to their classmates,” Ryan said. “They know what’s going on. But we’ve never talked about a streak.”