BYU fell behind by 12 early but battled back to go back up by four midway through the first half. No. 11 Wisconsin, however, went back in front and leads with half of the second period to play.
As the second half progressed, the Badgers put the game away by hitting big 3-pointers and stopping the Cougars on the other end.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Two basic truths heading into tonight's Chicago Invitational Challenge title game:
∫BYU and Wisconsin haven't met since 1931. And both wish they would have played each other last March, when each was assigned to the New Orleans region for the Sweet 16. But the Cougars lost to Florida and Wisconsin fell to Butler shortly thereafter.
∫Wisconsin doesn't exactly sound thrilled to be so close to home for the holidays.
"It kind of stinks watching TV and seeing all these teams in Maui and Orlando and knowing that we could be there," Josh Gasser said after the Friday night win against Bradley, "but at the same time we're focused on winning this championship here."
BYU should be Wisconsin's most competitive game of the year, considering the Badgers have had five blowouts -- four at home before the trip to suburban Chicago at 11,000-seat Sears Centre, which should be cloaked mostly in red at 6 p.m. Utah time (Big Ten Network).
It's about 120 miles from Madison, Wisc., to Hoffman Estates, Ill. There's also a large alumni base in this part of Illinois to draw from.
UW coach Bo Ryan and BYU's Dave Rose, of course, have never played. But they do know each other.
"Solid program," Ryan said of BYU, which has made five consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. "They know how to advance, they know how to play in these things."
Rose, asked after his game about knowing Ryan, said he does -- they've met at various camps and clinics. Their common trait is that both worked quite hard through lower ranks to reach their status now.
Rose praised the toughness the Badgers play with under Ryan and said that he talked with him at the hotel Thursday night.
Rose told Ryan he must be excited to have such a talented team.
Ryan gave a surly answer. He said his team had done nothing but win a few home games.
"That's it," Rose said with a smile.
The guy to watch tonight is a point guard.
Jordan Taylor, a 6-foot-1 Wisconsin senior, may be the best in the country. He shot just 5-of-16 against Bradley, but he averages about 5.5 assists to one turnover each game. He is more of a pure point guard than Jimmer Fredette was at BYU.
Taylor followed BYU last year, in large part because of Fredette.
"It was kind of hard not to see BYU," he said with a smile following the comfortable win against Bradley.
Asked to evaluate his strengths, Taylor said he considers himself an unselfish player.
He's made half (7/14) of his 3-point shots and his shooting 40 percent from the field.
Like Fredette, he is a well spoken and polite guy who can wear a big smile even as he plays.
Maybe the only difference, at least on answering one type of question: You could tell Taylor, like some teammates, was a little miffed to be spending the holidays in a cold climate (not that it's unusual; Taylor hails from Minnesota).
"My first three years, this time of year, we were in the Virgin Islands, Maui and Orlando," he said. "But wherever you go, it's basketball. We have to be ready to play. We know BYU is good."
UW coach Ryan, asked if there was a strong enough connection to get his Badgers and BYU in the same locale in a very small holiday setting, quipped that perhaps Rose looked at his farmer's almanac and saw that it was going to be unusually warm in Chicago this year.
It's in the 40's here today, and was around 50 degrees Friday. Not bad for this area right now.