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EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern coach Bill Carmody is going to try some new combinations and lineups in practice over the next couple of days.
After all, it can't get much worse than this.
Reggie Hearn scored 13 points, but the Wildcats shot 29 percent from the field in a 69-41 loss to No. 19 Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
"Just having a hard time putting the ball in the basket, and our rebounding, it's just been anemic," Carmody said.
Northwestern (13-14, 4-10 Big Ten) has dropped four in a row and six of seven. The Wildcats shot a season-low 25 percent in their previous game, a 62-41 loss to Illinois on Sunday.
Wisconsin went and got all the missed shots, too. The Badgers outrebounded Northwestern 47-22, including a 15-2 advantage on the offensive boards.
"Fifteen offensive rebounds, it seems like they scored every time," guard Dave Sobolewski said.
Ben Brust and Jared Berggren each had 12 points and eight rebounds for Wisconsin (19-8, 10-4), which has won five of six. Brust had missed the last two days of practice with a sore left knee.
"In a game like tonight they're going to take some outside shots, so there's going to be long rebounds," Brust said. "I just try to track it down and make sure my guy isn't going in there. Just trying to help out the bigs."
The balanced Badgers (19-8, 10-4 Big Ten) had five players with at least eight points during a very businesslike performance. Sam Dekker scored 10, and Traevon Jackson finished with eight points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Brust, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, got each of his eight boards on the defensive glass and is second on the team with 5.6 rebounds per game. The junior said his knee felt great after the game.
"He's a lot tougher than he looks," coach Bo Ryan said. "Physically he's bought into everything we're trying to do and have done over the years."
Wisconsin snapped a tie with No. 7 Michigan for third in the loaded Big Ten and moved within a game of fourth-ranked Michigan State for the second spot. The Badgers are now off until they host Nebraska on Tuesday, while the Wolverines and Spartans each play on Sunday.
It was the only scheduled meeting of the season for the Wildcats and Badgers, but Berggren and Co. will return to the area next month for the conference tournament at the United Center.
Wisconsin opened the game with a 9-0 run and led 28-12 at intermission, holding Northwestern to 20 percent shooting and a season-low point total for any half. The Badgers also had a 23-8 rebounding edge at the break.
"I thought especially in the first half we did a good job getting on the offensive glass when they were in the zone," Berggren said. "That was something we looked to take advantage of and we did a pretty good job doing that."
Jackson helped key the fast start with a nice block on a 3-point attempt by Sobolewski. Brust caught the loose ball and sent it up the court for Jackson, who converted the easy layup during the Badgers' opening spurt.
Jackson tacked on a nice pullup jumper at the halftime horn for Wisconsin, which held Ohio State to 38-percent shooting in an impressive 71-49 victory in its previous game.
"We make teams defend us for a long time," Berggren said. "Make them play hard defense and if we can get on the offensive glass and then make them do it again, it can be discouraging to teams."
Northwestern's numbers at the break were bleak all-around. It had just one field goal inside of the arc, and Hearn went 1 for 2 in its only trip to the free-throw line with 1:27 to go.
"They just kind of pounded us and took advantage of their size," Hearn said.
The Wildcats looked a little better on offense at the start of the second half, closing to 31-19 on Tre Demps' 3-pointer with 17:46 left. But the Badgers responded with an 8-2 spurt and enjoyed their biggest lead at the final buzzer.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap