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2:30 PM PT3:30 PM MT4:30 PM CT5:30 PM ET10:30 PM GMT6:30 PM 北京时间3:30 PM MST5:30 PM EST, Dec 29, 2018
E.A. Diddle Arena, Bowling Green, Kentucky  Attendance: 7,614

No. 15 Wisconsin ends non-league schedule at Western Kentucky

The Wisconsin Badgers wrap up their non-conference slate in an unusual fashion Saturday afternoon -- unusual for a nationally-ranked, Power-Five conference program.

No. 15 Wisconsin (10-2) travels to Bowling Green, Ky., for a matchup against Western Kentucky, a mid-major program from Conference USA.

It marks an end to an already unusual non-conference schedule for the Badgers, who played five games at the Kohl Center and six away from home, all of those on neutral courts.

Saturday's game wraps up a home-and-home contract that was signed several years ago and includes games between the schools' football programs.

Certainly, the Hilltoppers have plenty to gain and Wisconsin -- ranked No. 4 in the NET ratings, which the NCAA Tournament selection committee is leaning on this season -- has everything to lose. But Greg Gard, the Badgers' interim coach when the contract was signed, is trying to look at the positives.

"There's some value to it," Gard said when asked if he has come around at all on the Western Kentucky deal. "Would we probably in a perfect world schedule that? Probably not, just because we have so many other options at play."

If nothing else, the sense of urgency and pressure to avoid a letdown should be a good preparation for the rigors of Big Ten play, which resumes Thursday against Minnesota.

Redshirt senior Ethan Happ leads Wisconsin with 19.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. He'll spend his afternoon matched up against freshman Charles Bassey.

Bassey has held his own against some of the country's better big men this season, averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds against Washington's Noah Dickerson, West Virginia's Sagaba Konate, Central Florida's Tacko Fall and Arkansas' Daniel Gafford.

"He beats you by being clever with that basketball in his hand, really able to drive it 15 feet in, knows where that rim is hung at, finishes multiple different ways, both hands," Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said. "He finishes really good with that left hand, too. He's got really good jump hooks.

"Like I said, he's just a really clever, experienced player."

For the Hilltoppers (6-6), who haven't beaten a team ranked in the Top 25 since knocking off No. 25 Old Dominion in 2015, the game presents an opportunity to play against one of the nation's best.

"As a player and as a coach and as a fan, that's what you want," Stansbury said. "There aren't many opportunities you get for one of the better teams in the country to come here and play. You know what's good about that? We're all going to show up believing that we have a chance."

Though only one starter, guard Taveion Hollingsworth, returns from last season, the Badgers' 81-80 victory in Madison is still fresh in the Hilltoppers' minds.

The score was tied at 80 with 20 seconds to go when Wisconsin guad Brad Davison drew a charge call on WKU's Marek Nelson (indefinitely suspended after a DUI arrest over the weekend). Referee Steve McJunkins initially appeared to signal a blocking foul on Davison before ultimately reversing the call.

Davison sank one of two free throws to put the Badgers ahead.

"I can't be the only one, but whenever Wisconsin comes up in our heads, that's the first thing that comes to mind is that play," Hollingsworth said. "We forgot about it and this is a new game. We're going to do what we've got to do."

Updated December 29, 2018

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