December 16, 2006

No. 7 Wisconsin pounds No. 2 Pitt, 89-75

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MADISON, Wis. - Alando Tucker had 32 points and 10 rebounds and Brian Butch added a career-high 27 points and had 11 rebounds as No. 7 Wisconsin beat No. 2 Pittsburgh 89-75 on Saturday, snapping the Panthers' 21-game nonconference winning streak.

Butch and Tucker put on a shooting display in the first half, each going 7-of-9 from the field and scoring 20 points.

The rest of the Badgers got into the act in the second half in Wisconsin's first victory over a team ranked higher than No. 7 since Bo Ryan took over the Badgers (11-1) in 2001.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon had never lost before Jan. 1 in a season, a streak of 44 games, but the Panthers (10-1) struggled despite a strong effort from 7-foot center Aaron Gray, the Big East's preseason player of the year who was sick with strep throat.

After going scoreless over the first 10 minutes, Gray led the Panthers with 17 points and eight rebounds, but Pittsburgh fell into a deep deficit it couldn't overcome despite having five players finish in double digits.

Wisconsin kept a large lead through most of the second half after closing the opening 20 minutes on a 10-3 run, when all of the Badgers' points were scored by Butch or Tucker, the Big Ten's preseason player of the year.

Tucker extended the Badgers' lead to 81-63 by hitting a 3-pointer over an outstretched Sam Young with 5:43 left.

Pittsburgh went on an 11-3 run after that, but never got back within 10 despite getting 16 points from Ronald Ramon, 13 from Mike Cook, 11 from Antonio Graves and 10 from Levance Fields.

Tucker started the game by scoring six of the Badgers' first eight points in an 8-0 run, but Pittsburgh erased that and Gray gave the Panthers a 25-23 lead in the first half.

It wouldn't last, because Tucker always seemed to be in the right spot.

One ball caromed to him during a scramble after he had been pushed off to the side, and he snagged it for a quick layup.

Off a miss by Gray, Tucker drove around a screen and went to the basket untouched for a 27-25 lead.

Butch got in the act, too, when the junior center made a soft layup and followed it up with a rainbow 3-pointer as the Badgers began pulling away.

Tucker's alley-oop dunk and ensuing three-point play along with two free throws by Butch gave Wisconsin a 47-37 halftime lead as the duo scored the Badgers' final 10 points of the first half.

In the second half, Butch had set his career high with 16:46 to play off an emphatic dunk, while Tucker didn't make his first field goal until 7:31 left off a wild bank shot that drew a foul.

It was Pittsburgh's first nonconference road loss since Dec. 31, 2002, at Georgia, but it was the first time the Panthers had played a nonconference team ranked as high as Wisconsin on the road since losing at No. 5 Massachusetts in 1994.

Kammron Taylor also finished with 14 points for the Badgers, who shot 25-of-54 from the field and improved to 81-5 at the Kohl Center under Ryan. It was only the third time Wisconsin has beaten a team ranked No. 2 in 21 tries.

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