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Associated Press
Wisconsin's Josh Gasser (21) looks to the basket as Northwestern center Alex Olah (22) and guard Drew Crawford, left, defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Evanston, Ill., on Thursday.

No. 4 Wisconsin cruises past Northwestern 76-49

EVANSTON, Ill. – Freshman reserve Nigel Hayes had a career-high 19 points and No. 4 Wisconsin remained unbeaten with an easy 76-49 victory over Northwestern in their Big Ten opener Thursday night.

Hayes went 8 for 12 from the field and had six rebounds while showing a nice combination of power and finesse. The prize recruit is averaging 15.3 points in his last three games.

Sam Dekker scored 15 points and Traevon Jackson had 10 for the Badgers (14-0, 1-0), who earned their seventh consecutive win against the Wildcats. They shot 55 percent (32 for 58) from the field and enjoyed a 38-27 rebounding edge.

Northwestern (7-7, 0-1) has dropped two straight after a three-game winning streak. Alex Olah had a career-high 23 points, and Drew Crawford finished with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

Wisconsin improved to 14-0 for the first time since the Badgers won each of their 15 games in the 1911-12 and 1913-14 seasons. It was their 11th straight win in a Big Ten opener.

They can match the school record for fastest start with a victory against No. 22 Iowa in their first conference home game on Sunday.

Wisconsin grabbed control with a virtually flawless first half, scoring 36 of the final 45 points before intermission. The almost clinical performance began with a 16-2 run that included eight points from Hayes, who sparked the decisive sequence with two free throws and a jumper in the paint.

Hayes by himself had a 13-12 lead over the Wildcats with 1:30 to go.

Duje Dukan’s layup with 28 seconds left sent the Badgers to the locker room with a 40-14 lead. Wisconsin had a dominant advantage in virtually every category at the break, shooting 59 percent with only one turnover and building a 20-10 rebound difference.

Wisconsin’s start was so impressive that even hard-charging coach Bo Ryan seemed satisfied with the Badgers’ effort. He kept a close watch on the action from in front of the bench, but he seemed almost serene as his team picked apart the Wildcats.

It was more of the same in the second half, with Jackson finding Dekker for a fast-break dunk that made it 49-20 with 14:40 left.

Northwestern forward Nikola Cerina left with an injury after Dekker’s jam. The 6-foot-9 redshirt senior appeared to be favoring his right leg as he hobbled off the court.

The Wildcats shot 34.5 percent (19 for 55) and their reserves managed just four points, compared to 32 for their counterparts on the Badgers.

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