MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin certainly was bigger.
Dominic James said No. 11 Marquette was just tougher.
“Toughness always prevails,” James said. “That’s what rebounding is all about.”
Despite a profound size disadvantage, the Golden Eagles outrebounded and outmuscled their in-state rival on the way to an 81-76 victory on Saturday.
Marquette (6-1) ended Wisconsin’s 28-home game winning streak and put a halt to the Badgers’ recent run of success in the state’s biggest basketball rivalry.
Wisconsin (6-2) had won seven of the previous nine meetings between the schools, and had not lost at home to Marquette since 1997.
James scored 20 points and Jerel McNeal added 14 for the Golden Eagles, who had a clear-cut backcourt advantage over the Badgers going into the game.
But conventional wisdom said Wisconsin, one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, would pound the Golden Eagles’ underdeveloped inside game.
Instead, Marquette outrebounded Wisconsin 41-34—including 21-16 on the offensive end.
“I think it’s playing desperate,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “I think our team has got to understand that if we don’t play that way, we’re not going to beat (top) teams.”
Badgers coach Bo Ryan said his big men weren’t fundamentally sound under the basket.
“You’ve still got to get position, you’ve still got to get the ball,” Ryan said. “And tonight was one of those nights.”
Forward Dwight Burke had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Ousmane Barro and Lazar Hayward made key contributions as Marquette outscored Wisconsin 44-30 in the paint.
“That consistency out of the post position, that’s what we’ve been lacking,” James said. “If we continue to play like that, and guys like Ousmane and Dwight continue to step up, we’re going to be a great team.”
Marquette’s players couldn’t help but notice a huge difference in Wisconsin’s team this season: the absence of Alando Tucker, who was an All-American as a senior.
“A lot different,” James said of Wisconsin’s team. “He’s a playmaker.”
Ryan conceded that the Badgers’ remaining players might be pressing to replace the scoring of Tucker and fellow senior Kammron Taylor from last season, and might have missed Tucker’s leadership on Saturday.
“I’ve got to remind some of these guys, you can’t replace 3,400 points in one game,” Ryan said, referring to Tucker and Taylor. “I still think our guys are trying to find where the points are going (to come from).”
Senior Brian Butch, who led the Badgers with 17 points, said the team has plenty of talent.
“We have enough players on the floor,” Butch said. “It’s just, who’s going to make the plays?”
Hughes, a sophomore who has stepped into the starting lineup and become the Badgers’ leading scorer this year, said he was disappointed with his play.
“The pressure got to us a little bit,” Hughes said. “It starts with me— I’m the point guard.”
Crean called the victory a “signature” non-conference win they weren’t able to get against Duke in the Maui Invitational, and a big win in a big rivalry.
“It’s always a big deal with Marquette and Wisconsin,” Crean said. “But over the last few years, it’s just gone up.”
That rivalry nearly boiled over early in the second half, as James and Hughes went jaw-to-jaw after a foul by James the Badgers’ offensive end.
Badgers center Joe Krabbenhoft stepped in between them as Marquette assistant coaches restrained bench players to keep them from jumping into the confrontation.
“That type of play happens every day in practice for me,” James said. “That’s just two competitors going after each other.”
Hughes said he thought he “obviously got into” James’ head in last year’s game, leaving James with something to prove. But Hughes chided himself for not bringing the same level of intensity to this year’s meeting.
“I just kind of took it as a joke, and I should have never (done) that,” Hughes said.
Wisconsin was leading 50-46 at the time of the confrontation, but Marquette went on an 8-2 run to take a 54-52 lead on a turnaround jumper by McNeal.
Marquette maintained the lead while Crean rested James for nearly three minutes down the stretch, and the guard returned to the floor with 5:35 remaining and Marquette leading 64-62.
James was called for traveling right away, and Hughes hit a jump shot to tie the game at 64.
James came back with a jump shot, kicking off a 7-1 Marquette run that included a three-point play by Barro and a jumper by McNeal that put Marquette ahead 71-65 with 2:32 remaining.
Wisconsin’s Jason Bohannon hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three, but Hayward answered with an inside basket. The teams traded free throws, and Marquette held off the Badgers in the final 1:27.