BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky rode a big performance from a freshman guard to another win over an AP Top 25 opponent.
Dalano Banton nearly had a triple-double and the Hilltoppers caught fire in the second half to beat No. 15 Wisconsin 83-76 on Saturday.
Banton had eight points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, helping Western Kentucky beat a ranked foe for the second time this season. The Hilltoppers upset then-No. 13 West Virginia in November.
No. 15 Wisconsin (10-3) visited a mid-major school for the first time since the 2014-15 season and couldn’t contend with the Hilltoppers’ 67.8 percent shooting in the second half.
“Second half specifically, Western Kentucky took advantage of a lot of our mistakes and made us pay,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I knew watching them on film they were better than a 6-6 team. If you get some confidence and get going, which we allowed them to do, they took advantage of it and that had a snowball effect.”
Taveion Hollingsworth led Western Kentucky (7-6) with 22 points, and Charles Bassey had 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting while mostly guarded by preseason All-American Ethan Happ.
Brad Davison led Wisconsin with 26 points, and Happ had 20 points and 12 rebounds, although Western Kentucky outworked the Badgers 38-31 on the glass. The Badgers were outscored 40-38 in the paint.
“Everybody contributed, everyone sat down on their man,” Hollingsworth said. “We let our defense create the offense. We were getting stops and guarding their best players how they needed to be guarded and it created momentum for us.”
The Diddle Arena crowd of 7,614 wasn’t necessarily welcoming of Davison, who was greeted with a chorus of boos any time he touched the ball. Davison drew a charge and hit a free throw with two seconds left in Wisconsin’s 81-80 win last year in Madison, Wisconsin.
Davison had 13 points in the first half as the Badgers led 34-30 at the break before Western Kentucky roared out of the second half with a 9-0 run.
Banton’s 3-pointer from the top of the key put the Hilltoppers up 41-38 with 17:19 left and they never looked back.
Josh Anderson finished with 15 points and made a three-point play that pushed Western Kentucky to its largest lead of 11 points with 1:06 left.
“We were pretty good start to finish,” Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said. “Huge key for us was our ability to guard Happ one-on-one in that post. Charles’ ability to guard him one-on-one was huge. We played man for 40 minutes except the last 15 seconds. Our ability to feed from the emotion of that game was huge for us.”
Wisconsin: The Badgers couldn’t get the separation Gard wanted in the first half. Wisconsin’s largest lead was six in the first half and the Badgers scored on 35 of their 73 possessions. WKU’s 83 points were a season-high allowed by the Badgers, who will fall in the top 25 poll to start Big Ten play. “I thought we did some decent things in the first half, but could never get some separation,” Gard said. “Good lesson for us as long as we take it and get better from it.”
Western Kentucky: The win gives the Hilltoppers momentum ahead of league play and moves them to 7-3 against the Power Five the last two seasons. Stansbury’s team reached the NIT semifinals last season and was voted as the preseason favorite in Conference USA. “Our team is coming together,” Hollingsworth said,” And when we feel like that, it’s exciting.”
Western Kentucky: Starts a three-game road swing at Charlotte on Thursday
Wisconsin: Opens Big Ten play at home against Minnesota on Thursday.