MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Finally, Wisconsin had a breather.
The 16th-ranked Badgers dominated back home against an overmatched team following a seven-game stretch versus power conference foes.
Brad Davison scored a season-high 24 points and Wisconsin had a school-record 69 first-half points to overwhelm Savannah State 101-60 on Thursday night.
“Every game is an opportunity. It doesn’t matter what the team is, we’re focused on trying to get better,” Davison said. “But definitely, we’ve had a little bit of a grind.”
It was just the kind of confidence-building rout that Wisconsin needed after 74-69 loss in overtime last week to in-state rival Marquette. That game was also preceded by mostly down-to-the-wire contests against more evenly-matched schools.
The Badgers (9-2) took care of Savannah State in a hurry on Thursday.
Davison was 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Preseason All-American Ethan Happ had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman Tai Strickland added a career-high 14 points.
The Badgers shot 71 percent in the first half to take a 37-point lead on their way to their first 100-point contest since 2013. Savannah State (3-9) is the only team in Division I allowing 100 points a game.
“We try to do it and play the game the right way … that will reinforce (good) habits,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “We don’t change our demands regardless of scores or opponents.”
Jaquan Dotson had 20 points to lead the Tigers, a team that likes to shoot 3s. Second in the NCAAs in hitting 13 3s a game, Savannah State managed to shoot 11 of 39 (28 percent) from the arc at the Kohl Center.
But Wisconsin put on a first-half clinic, hitting 24 of 34 from the field, including 69 percent (11 of 16) from 3-point range.
Strickland’s night exemplified the Badgers’ early fortune after two of his three 3s banked off the backboard.
“It definitely helped me get a lot more comfortable. It’s different from practice where it’s a closed gym,” Strickland said about his 17-minute outing.
Savannah State: The team dressed just eight players, the tallest player being 6-foot-8 Romani Hansen. But 6-6 guard Adam Saeed faced the 6-10 Happ for the opening tip. Allowing foes to shoot 50 percent on the season, the Tigers were routed, as expected. They were also outrebounded 45-20. … Tyrell Harper finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Wisconsin: F Khalil Iverson sat out with a lower left foot injury. Coach Greg Gard said the injury wasn’t serious. He didn’t really need one of his best defenders anyway. … The 11 3s in the opening 20 minutes were a school record for a first half. …. Wisconsin finished the night shooting 47 percent.
At one point, Davison was trapped in the corner in the frontcourt by two defenders before jumping and slinging a pass to Kobe King at the opposite wing. King hit a bucket and drew a foul for a 39-20 lead with 9:25 left in the first.
Later, Wisconsin’s Charles Thomas blocked Romani Hansen’s layup attempt from behind. At the other end, D’Mitrik Trice punctured the undersized Tigers’ zone with a diagonal pass to a cutting Davison for an easy layup and 21-point lead with 8:13 left in the first.
“The only way (the team) can get better is playing against better competition,” Tigers coach Horace Broadnax said. “And it’s a good experience to come in here and play the Big Ten.”
“They got a visual and a good, physical understanding, showing up today (that they’ve) got to work. That’s what they should take away, but social media is going to distract them before they get back to work.” – Broadnax, with a laugh, about the lesson for his players.
Savannah State: At Tennessee Tech on Dec. 20.
Wisconsin: Hosts Grambling on Dec. 22.
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