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Wisconsin wins outright Big Ten crown

Mar 9, 2008 - 1:05 AM EVANSTON, Illinois (Ticker) -- In typical workmanlike fashion, Wisconsin claimed the outright Big Ten Conference regular-season title on Saturday.

Brian Butch recorded 20 points and matched a career high with 14 rebounds as the eighth-ranked Badgers defeated Northwestern, 65-52, to secure the top seed for next week's conference tournament.

Wisconsin, which captured its third Big Ten title in seven years, achieved another milestone as this year's senior class became the first in school history to win 100 games.

"To win it outright is nice because then it eliminates some of the conversation from this part of the season," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "You always talk about how now it goes into the second season. But the first season's over, and there's one team that stands alone and it's the team in that (Wisconsin) locker room. That feels pretty good."

The contest never was seriously in doubt as the Badgers led from start to finish after scoring the game's first four points.

Northwestern (8-21, 1-17) managed to stay close for most of the first half before a late spurt gave Wisconsin a 29-20 lead at the intermission.

After the Wildcats pulled within 37-29 on two free throws by Nikola Baran with 14:49 remaining, the Badgers put away the contest with a 10-0 run.

Michael Flowers' two free throws gave Wisconsin its biggest lead at 47-29 with 10:45 left.

Kevin Coble scored 17 points for the Wildcats, who dropped 10 of their last 11 regular-season contests.

"My guys have arms like me, which is not good," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. "Their guys are just big, strong guys and we weren't able to keep them off the backboards."

Wisconsin dominated on the boards, outrebounding Northwestern, 38-21, including 14-7 on the offensive end.

The Badgers, who take a seven-game winning streak into the Big Ten tournament, held their last six opponents under 60 points and two below 50.

"On the defensive end, they were willing to make that commitment to cover, help, pinch and sink - all the terms we use defensively," Ryan added.

Jason Bohannon added 15 points off the bench for Wisconsin and made all six of his foul shots to set a school record for consecutive free throws made with 39. He broke the previous school mark of 35 held by Wes Matthews.

A layup by Michael Thompson, who contributed 13 points, pulled Northwestern within 21-20 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. But the Wildcats were held scoreless for the remainder of the period.

"I thought we were somewhat even with them for about 16 minutes and then they got that lead on us," Carmody said. "In the first half, they missed 13 shots but they got back eight of them. That's plagued us most of the year."

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