Just going to Madison to play No. 13 Wisconsin is tough enough. Mississippi Valley State coach Sean Woods said putting the Badgers on the free throw line 44 times pretty much made it impossible.
Jordan Taylor scored 17 points to lead Wisconsin to a 79-45 victory Friday, a win in which the Badgers took 23 more free throws than their previous season-high.
Woods said the fouls hurt what the Delta Devils were trying to do defensively and noted he was charged with a technical foul for pointing out the discrepancy at that point in the game was 25-12. It ended up 29-15.
"You're not going to beat any Wisconsin team of this magnitude — and this is a pretty good Wisconsin team — if the foul discrepancy is that bad," Woods said. "We have no chance to win or even stay close."
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said it was simply a matter of the Badgers (11-2) taking advantage of what Mississippi Valley State (1-10) presented defensively.
"They were just real physical," Ryan said. "They were going to get you to turn it over or they were going to foul you."
Playing for the first time in more than a week, the Badgers showed no signs of rust, taking a 20-4 lead in the game's first 8 minutes.
The Delta Devils were able to cut the lead to 11 points twice in the first half and showed signs they might make it a game. But the foul trouble and Wisconsin's free throw shooting eventually wore them down.
Reserve guard Brent Arrington fouled out for the Delta Devils in 23 minutes, and three others finished the game with four fouls.
Part of that came from the physical mismatches the Delta Devils faced. The rest was more of an effort by the Badgers to get to the line the last couple of weeks.
Over the first seven games, the Badgers were more of a perimeter team, averaging more than 24 3-point attempts a game and just nine free throw attempts. But Wisconsin had shown more balance over the previous five games coming into Friday, taking almost 17 3s and attempting more than 19 free throws.
On Friday, the Badgers took that trend to the other extreme. They were 4 of 10 on 3s and 31 of 44 on free throws.
Josh Gasser, who finished with 11 points, said the Badgers aren't giving up on their perimeter game. They just took advantage of the opportunities the Delta Devils' defense presented to them.
While happy with how often they got to the line, he said the Badgers should have done a better job of converting once they got there. They hit better than 70 percent of their opportunities, just above their season average.
"The 31, we'd like to get that a little higher I think," Gasser said. "We knew they'd pressure defensively like they did. To offset that, you just have to drive hard and get to the free throw line."
Jared Berggren had 15 points for the Badgers, who play Tuesday at Nebraska to open Big Ten play.
Paul Crosby and Terrence Joyner both scored 14 points for the Delta Devils of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
This was the Delta Devil's 11th of 12 straight games away from home to start the season. They play at Iowa State on Dec. 31 before finally playing at home on Jan. 3.
Woods said the extended road trip against the likes of North Carolina, Arkansas, Northwestern and Florida is starting to take its toll. He told his players they have off until Tuesday and won't practice again until Wednesday.
"When you put so much into something, something good has to come out of it and our goal is to win our league and get into the NCAA tournament, and we're on the right track with that," he said.