Wisconsin never trails in impressive victory defeat of No. 3 Marquette

Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit, left, celebrates a three-point basket with guard Chucky Hepburn against Marquette during the first half at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Wisconsin guard Max Klesmit, left, celebrates a three-point basket with guard Chucky Hepburn against Marquette during the first half at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Maybe Wisconsin's men's basketball team – unranked entering Saturday – is exceptionally good.

And mentally tough.

The Badgers looked outstanding in building a double-digit halftime lead against No. 3 Marquette on Saturday at the Kohl Center.

They looked tentative and disjointed in the second half as Marquette roared back to within a point less than six minutes into the second half.

Greg Gard’s players then steadied themselves and made critical plays on both ends of the court take down the Golden Eagles, 75-64.

The Badgers never trailed in extending their winning streak to four games and opening their three-game gauntlet with an important victory.

Washington opens Big Ten play Tuesday at No. 25 Michigan State and faces No. 2 Arizona next Saturday in Tucson.

Max Klesmit, who hit the game-winning basket in Wisconsin’s overtime victory over the Golden Eagles last season, scored 21 of the Badgers' 46 points in the opening half to help build a 13-point lead.

That topped Klesmit’s previous high of 19 points. He entered the day just 7 of 23 from three-point range (30.8%) but hit 5 of 8 attempts in the opening half.

Klesmit didn’t score after halftime but his teammates picked up the slack in recording the team’s best victory of the young season.

Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl, averaging a combined 21.9 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, were terrific.

Crowl finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. He hit 5 of 6 shots and 6 of 8 free throws.

Wahl, who has won four of his five meetings with the Golden Eagles, left with 8:44 left in the first half after picking up his second foul.

Led by Klesmit, Wisconsin turned a 22-16 lead into a 46-33 halftime lead.

Wahl finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

AJ Storr played sparingly in his two games against Marquette last season when he was a freshman at St. John’s.

Storr contributed 13 points and five rebounds Saturday.

Chucky Hepburn was outstanding in his first two games against the Golden Eagles (17.0 points, 67.0% shooting). He contributed nine points, six rebounds and four assists Saturday.

The Badgers came in shooting 73.9% from the free-throw line. They hit 17 of 19 attempts (89.5%) in the opening half and finished 24 of 28 (85.7%).

The Badgers won the rebounding battle, 38-23, and had a huge edge in second-chance points (18-2).

Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek led Marquette with 19 and 11 points, respectively.

Klesmit was on fire in the opening half as he helped UW build a 46-33 lead.

UW finished the half 5 of 13 from three-point range. Klesmit wass 5 of 8. His teammates were a combined 0 of 5.

Klesmit scored on mid-range shots, hit 4 of 4 free throws and kept firing daggers from beyond the three-point line.

UW’s lead was 22-16 when Wahl exited with his second foul, with 8:44 left in the first half.

Klesmit responded with two free throws and a three-pointer to help push the lead to 27-16.

Down by 13 at the break and playing poorly, you knew the Golden Eagles would play better in te second half.

They did.

Jones opened with a corner three-pointer to spark a 9-0 run to cut UW’s lead to 46-42 with 17:19 remaining.

The Badgers missed 4 of their first 5 shots in the half and turned the ball over three times.

After Jones missed an open three-pointer with Marquette down by just a point, Crowl scored four points in an 8-2 run as Wisconsin pushed the lead to 60-53 with 8:56 left.

The Badgers led, 67-62, when Wahl was fouled on a drive with 3:22 left. Wahl, a 58.6% free-throw shooter but 3 of 3 from the line to that point in the game, hit 1 of 2 attempts.

Crowl was fouled going for a rebound on the other end and made 1 of 2 attempts for a 69-62 lead.

Klesmit came up with a loose ball after another Marquette miss and called a timeout with 2:53 left.

Storr followed with a baseline jumper for a 71-62 lead with 2:33 left.

Wisconsin had weathered the Golden Eagles' second-half charge and had a huge victory.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin tops Marquette in impressive victory for Big Ten