Instead, the Badgers' 27-game home nonconference winning streak was ended by an unlikely opponent in a 62-55 loss to the Bison.
The loss added to what already was a bad week for the Badgers (14-4), who lost their first Big Ten game at Ohio State on Wednesday and have lost two of their top reserves indefinitely.
"You just try to find ways to hang around, then you try to find the one way to win the game," North Dakota State Coach Tim Miles said.
For the Bison, that one way was clogging the lane on defense and forcing Wisconsin's players to shoot from the perimeter.
North Dakota State (11-9) forced outside shots, and Wisconsin missed. The Badgers shot 16 for 72, including four of 27 from three-point range.
Wisconsin forced 24 turnovers and had 22 offensive rebounds to North Dakota State's nine -- signs, Ryan said, that his team was trying.
Ryan insisted the Badgers didn't underestimate the Bison.
The Bison got a game-high 24 points from freshman guard Ben Woodside, and 16 points inside from forward Andre Smith.
North Dakota State is in the third year of a five-year NCAA reclassification from Division II to Division I.