MADISON -- Prior to Sunday, Wisconsin and Cornell had met just once. That match-up came in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, where the 12th-seeded Big Red's lights-out shooting forced the Badgers' early tourney exit.
Sunday night at the Kohl Center, Wisconsin (2-1) returned the favor some two years later with a 73-40 win over Cornell (1-3). Ben Brust and Jared Berggren led all scorers with 18 points apiece, while Brust (with 12 rebounds) and Ryan Evans (with 12 points and 10 rebounds) both added a double-double. All together, the Badgers shot 40.9 percent (27-of-66) from the field.
The win put Wisconsin back on the winning track after it fell on the road vs. No. 10 Florida on Wednesday. Sunday's game was also the first of two on-campus contests the Badgers will have in the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational. Wisconsin will play Presbyterian on Tuesday in Madison, Creighton on Friday in Vegas, and then either Arkansas or Arizona State again in Vegas on Saturday.
"You'd have to tell me that we lost at Florida," head coach Bo Ryan said. "We didn't practice with the idea that, 'Hey, we lost this last game, we've got to now come out here and play.' It was never even discussed other than the clips of showing movement, teaching points."
After Cornell scored the game's first basket, Wisconsin went on a 14-0 run over the next seven minutes. The Badgers were aggressive with their on-ball defense, forcing the Big Red into 18 turnovers, including 10 in the first half. Cornell shot just 27.1 percent (16-of-59) from the field and did not score 40 points until 4:10 remained in the game.
"I thought we did some good things defensively," Ryan said. "Because Cornell can penetrate, they can do some things with the ball. We saw them against some pretty quick teams. They have a couple of guys that make counter-moves as good as anybody we'll see that we'll play.
"What we did do a good job of was chesting up and not leaving our feet and not getting ourselves out of position. And that accounts for the shooting percentage of Cornell. I thought we stuck to our rules, defensively, a little bit better.
Wisconsin's greatest highlight came with about 3 ½ minutes remaining in the first half. Freshman forward Sam Dekker jumped a Cornell passing lane at the top of the key and on a breakaway with only one defender trailing slightly behind him, slammed home a tomahawk dunk on the other end. A not-quite-capacity Kohl Center crowd of 16,657 erupted as Dekker once again delivered in his promising young career.
"It was a bad pass by the guy and I got in the passing line," Dekker said. "It's just something I usually do all the time. I'm athletic enough to throw some dunks down, so it was a lot of energy after that. It was a little exciting, we got a timeout. It was a cool play."
Ryan also earned his first technical foul of the season at the 4:14 mark after jawing at the referees from the sideline.
On a positive note, Mike Bruesewitz made his return to the starting lineup in the place of Frank Kaminsky. Bruesewitz scored four points and grabbed five rebounds in 25 minutes on the floor, the longest he's played this season after a gruesome incident in practice left him with a severe laceration in his leg.
"Guys like that have the right to get [their starting spot] back very soon," Ryan said. "He's put himself in position to do that. He knows he'll be sitting and watching at times, he knows he'll be playing at times. Whether or not guys like that start, that's never affected them. He's a team player. But I like him out there on the court, though. I like what he brings, needless to say."
Of the 13 Wisconsin players that took the court, seven scored. Berggren, Brust and Evans were the only Badgers to score in double-digits. Evans, especially, did a solid job of rebounding from a first half in which he scored just two points.
"Ryan is treated the same way as every other player," Ryan said. "Sometimes, maybe when you're on the bench and looking, you see some things a little bit better. You see guys crashing, you see swim moves or bull rushes or whatever that a guy might be using. Or, you might be a little tired. So a guy comes out of the game, he gets some rest, he comes back in. But we do that with everybody."
For Cornell, Devin Cherry's 13 points made him the only Big Red player to reach double-digits.