MADISON, Wis. — Bo Ryan's players predicted Northwestern would provide a formidable challenge, much more than when the teams met in the Big Ten opener earlier this month.
What Wisconsin's players didn't expect was that they would fail to match Northwestern's execution on offense and tenacity on defense.
The unranked Wildcats used improved defense and timely shooting to stun No. 14 Wisconsin, 65-56, in front of an announced crowd of 17,155 Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.
"Obviously a tremendous, tremendous win for our team, for our program," said first-year coach Chris Collins, who guided the Wildcats to their first victory in the Kohl Center in 15 games. "I have so much respect for this Wisconsin program. I know how tough it is to play in this building.
"For us to be able to come in here and get a win is very special."
Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4 Big Ten) had beaten the Wildcats seven consecutive times, including by 27 points in Evanston earlier this season.
Northwestern's last victory in Madison before Wednesday came on Feb. 21, 1996. Dick Bennett was in his first season as UW's coach, and Ryan was in his 12th season at UW-Platteville.
This loss was crushing as UW missed a chance to tie idle Iowa (16-5, 5-3) for third place and instead dropped into a tie for fourth with idle Minnesota (15-6, 4-4).
Northwestern (11-11, 4-5) won for the fourth time in six games.
Drew Crawford, averaging 14.3 points per game in Big Ten play, scored 10 points in the first half to keep Northwestern within a point and finished with a game-high 30 points. He scored 9 of Northwestern's 12 points during a second-half stretch in which the Wildcats extended a 42-37 lead to 54-39 with 3 minutes 40 seconds remaining. Crawford hit 3 of 5 three-pointers and 10 of 15 shots overall and grabbed eight rebounds.
Guards Tre Demps and JerShon Cobb added 10 points apiece for the Wildcats, who entered the night last in the Big Ten in shooting at 39.4 percent but hit 23 of 48 shots (47.9 percent) against UW.
UW shot 25 percent in the opening half (6 of 24) and finished at 26.3 percent (15 of 57).
The Badgers entered the night third in the Big Ten in three-point shooting at 38.3 percent but made a season-low 20.8 percent of their attempts Wednesday (5 of 24).
"If somebody would have told me would have shot - getting those shots we had - that percentage," Ryan said, "I would have said no way. And once you start missing, sometimes that basket gets pretty small, and it obviously got pretty small.
"We did not have a guy shoot over 50 percent. I don't know if that's ever happened."
Ben Brust led UW with 21 points but hit just 3 of 10 three-pointers and 7 of 18 shots overall. Sam Dekker added 11 points but hit 2 of 9 shots. He missed all 4 of his three-point attempts. Traevon Jackson (8 points) hit 2 of 12 shots. Frank Kaminsky (8 points) hit 3 of 9 shots. Nigel Hayes (6 points) hit 1 of 5 shots. Josh Gasser (2 points) went 0 of 4 overall including 0 of 3 from three-point range.
When the teams met on Jan. 2, UW shot 59.3 percent in the first half (16 of 27) en route to building a 40-14 lead. That fast start allowed the Badgers to win easily, 76-49.
"They embarrassed us the last game," said Crawford, who hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 63 seconds to help hold off UW's final push.
The frustration switched benches Wednesday night.
Brust didn't need to look at the numbers.
"To throw the ball in the post and get a wide-open kick-out and to air ball it is just ridiculous," he said. "That's unacceptable. You've got to make shots."