Butch's 20 points help Badgers bag regular-season Big Ten title
Wisconsin Defeats Northwestern, 65-52
|Northwestern's Kevin Coble, left, and Wisconsin's Brian Butch go for a loose ball during the second half of a college basketball game at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, March 8, 2008. Wisconsin won 65-52. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)|
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EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- No sharing, thank you. Wisconsin finished all alone atop the Big Ten at the end of the regular season. Just the way coach Bo Ryan likes it.Brian Butch
scored 20 points and matched a career high with 14 rebounds as the Badgers (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 10 AP) used a strong second half to beat Northwestern 65-52 on Saturday and clinch the championship outright.
Wisconsin heads into next week's Big Ten tournament as the top seed.
"To win it outright is nice. It eliminates some of the conversation this part of the season," Ryan said. "There's one that stands alone and that's the team in that locker room. And that feels pretty good."Jason Bohannon
added 15 points, and Marcus Landry
scored eight straight during a 10-0 second-half run to help Wisconsin (26-4, 16-2) pull away.
It was the second outright regular-season title in Ryan's seven seasons at Wisconsin. The Badgers shared it one other time during his highly successful run.
"I never compare teams, but as far as satisfying and a group coming a ways, this group has come as far as any team I've ever had," Ryan said.
Welsh-Ryan Arena was jammed to the rafters, many of the fans noisy, red-clad Badgers boosters who made the relatively short trip to Chicago's north suburbs.
The Badgers entered the game with the nation's toughest scoring defense, allowing only 54.4 points per outing and they made sure the Wildcats -- who played a nice first half -- didn't get there.
"To see as many fans as were here today, it was almost like a home game for us," Butch said. "And to celebrate an outright championship in that way was pretty cool."
And they also made sure that Indiana and Purdue, which entered the final weekend with three conference losses, didn't get a share.
With the 6-foot-11 Butch leading the way, the Badgers dominated the boards 38-21 against the smaller Wildcats.
"It's nice to put up numbers but you know what? When it comes down to it, it's having a title. Having a championship to look back at," Butch said.
"You kind of get greedy this time of the season because you realize that as much basketball as you have left to play is up to you. Everyone is buying in and we've got a lot of basketball hopefully left to play."Kevin Coble
had 17 points for Northwestern (8-21, 1-17).
Northwestern bothered the Badgers for most of the first half with a tight defense and used its deliberate pick-and-cut offense to stay close with several backdoor baskets.
But Bohannon banked in a shot at the first-half buzzer -- Northwestern coach Bill Carmody pleaded for traveling -- to cap an 8-0 run and put the Badgers up 29-20. Northwestern went scoreless over the final 5:27 of the half.
Butch had 11 points and Bohannon added nine in the first half and Butch's eight rebounds helped Wisconsin dominate the boards 21-9.
"We just weren't able to stop the strength of their team," Carmody said. "[Joe] Krabbenhoft, Butch and Landry. They just seemed to be too powerful for us inside."
Ryan railed at numerous calls in the first half and showed early he was in no mood for mistakes. When Trevon Hughes
turned the ball over on Wisconsin's first possession, Ryan yanked his starting guard 13 seconds into the game.
In the second half, moments after he took exception to a hard foul from Northwestern's Ivan Peljusic
, Butch took a nifty pass from Krabbenhoft for a layup, was fouled and converted the three-point play. That put the Badgers up 10 with about 15 minutes to go.
Landry hit a 3-pointer and then took a high pass for a layup. He was fouled after the basket and when the Badgers retained possession, Landry hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key. His personal eight-point run put Wisconsin up 45-29.
Bohannon set a Wisconsin record by going 6-for-6 at the line to run his stretch of consecutive free throws made to 39, breaking the mark of 35 set by Wes Matthews in 1980.