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Badgers battle Wildcats in Big Ten brawl

<p>The 14th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers return home to the Kohl Center on Wednesday evening to take on the Northwestern Wildcats in a Big Ten Conference bout.</p>

Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers return home to the Kohl Center on Wednesday evening to take on the Northwestern Wildcats in a Big Ten Conference bout.

Northwestern had won three of four prior to its Saturday afternoon contest at home against nationally-ranked Iowa, where it was easily dismissed, 76-50, to drop to 3-5 in the Big Ten. The Wildcats are 10-11 overall this season, which includes just a 2-4 record on the road and a 1-5 mark against top-25 teams.

Wisconsin opened up the season as one of the top teams in the nation at 16-0, its best start in program history, before sliding into an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak. The Badgers got back to their winning ways on Saturday however, taking down Purdue on the road, 72-58, to move to 17-3 overall and 4-3 in the league. They are also a stellar 10-1 on their home floor.

In the first meeting this season, the Badgers went into Evanston and handed the Wildcats an embarrassing 76-49 defeat, giving Wisconsin seven straight wins in the series and a 110-65 lead all time.

The Wildcats only trailed by three early in the second half of their most recent game but were thoroughly outmatched down the stretch en route to the 26-point setback, shooting just 36.4 percent from the field while allowing Iowa to make good on 51.9 percent on its tries from the floor. Drew Crawford managed to overcome the struggles of most his teammates by pouring in a game- high 20 points, while Tre Demps came off the bench to score 11.

Northwestern has had difficulty putting point on the board all season long, as it shoots a mere 39.4 percent from the field for 61.4 ppg, which ranks 341st in the nation, negating its stellar scoring defense (64.0 ppg). Crawford is one of the squad's few bright spots, pouring in 15.6 ppg while hauling in a team-best 6.9 rpg as well. JerShon Cobb (11.3 ppg) and Demps (10.8 ppg) both shoot less than 40 percent from the field, and Alex Olah (8.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is stout down low with two blocks per contest.

The Badgers ended their losing streak with authority over the weekend by downing Purdue by 14 points in a tough road environment. They shot a modest 41.3 percent from the field, but they drained seven 3-points and earned a 27-9 scoring advantage at the free-throw line. All five starters scored in double figures, paced by 16 points from Frank Kaminsky, who added six rebounds and three blocks as well. Sam Dekker and Traevon Jackson put up 15 points apiece, while Ben Brust and Josh Gasser netted 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Wisconsin has displayed excellent balance this season, shooting 46.9 percent from the field for 75.2 ppg, while allowing just 63.5 ppg on 42.3 percent shooting. It also boasts positive margins in the rebounding (+1.9) and turnover (+1.9) battles and has impressive percentages from 3-point range (.383) and the free-throw line (.740). Dekker (14.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Kaminsky (13.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg) lead the charge from the frontcourt, although both are capable of stretching the floor with a combined 45 3-pointers. Brust (12.8 ppg) has a team-best 51 long-range buckets and is nearly automatic at the foul line (.949). Jackson (11.2 ppg, 4.1 apg) and Gasser (9.2 ppg) round out a lineup that has started every game together.

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