No. 6 Wisconsin wrapped up the Big Ten title Thursday, winning at Minnesota, 76-63, to improve to 27-3 overall and 15-2 in the Big Ten. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker dominated down low for the Badgers, combining for 45 points and 12 rebonds and limiting Minnesota to 41 percent shooting from the floor.
Wisconsin is 9-2 on the road this season, with the only losses coming to Rutgers and Maryland by a combined 11 points.
“(We’re fine) to go on the road,” Dekker said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We don’t really mind it when crowds hate us. It just gives us a little extra boost. It shouldn’t matter where you are. The hoops are still 10 feet. The ball still bounces. That’s how coach aways teaches us.”
While Dekker was stellar with 20 points and six rebounds, Kaminsky showed why he’s the favorite to win national player of the year. The senior 7-footer had 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block. The defense tried to sag into Kaminsky and force him into mistakes, but it didn’t work. Kaminsky found his teammates early and often, as Wisconsin shot 50 percent from the floor and 50 percent (10-of-20) from three-point range.
“When we’re rolling like we were tonight, it’s pretty tough to stop,” Dekker said. “We have five guys always that are going to be willing to make the extra pass for a good shot. And when we run our stuff through Frank, it makes it so tough because he stretches the floor and draws so much attention because he’s so good. And then he’s good enough to find us. Like today, I think he threw three or four backdoors for easy layups. Those things are backbreakers for the defense because they play hard for 30 seconds and then Frank will find me or Nigel (Hayes) will find me and we get an easy dunk. Then we just go down, get a stop and do it all over again.”
Wisconsin closes the regular season at No. 23 Ohio State (22-8, 11-6) this Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The Badgers will play to win, of course, but it’s nice knowing they’ve already got the Big Ten title in the bag.
“It feels pretty good,” Dekker said. “We’ve been pretty spoiled over the past two years, making the Final Four, winning a lot of games and just carrying it over to this year and having a great year so far. But we’re nowhere near content. We have more work to do. It starts in Columbus and then on to the Big Ten tournament and then the NCAA Tournament. So hopefully we can make some more noise and make some more memories.”
While many analysts project Wisconsin as a 2-seed, Scott Ferrall feels the Badgers are a clear No. 1. Would a No. 2 be disrespectful to Bo Ryan’s boys?
“I don’t really care, to be honest,” Dekker said. “That’s stuff we can’t control. The only thing we can control is how we play on the court. If we get some wins here and build our resume, maybe we can get a one. But whether a one, two, three – we’re just going to go and play and hope we get some wins and march through March and try to get to another Final Four and win a national championship.”
Ferrall asked Dekker, a 6-9 junior from Sheboygan, whether he’ll return to Madison for his senior season.
“That decision hasn’t been made yet,” Dekker said. “I still have some work to do here. (I (plan) to spend the rest of the year with my team and then I’ll make that decision. But I can’t worry about that too much right now.”