In the aftermath of Wednesday's painful loss to Virginia, Wisconsin set forth a solid showing in Sunday afternoon's 81-56 win over the California Golden Bears at the Kohl Center. Ben Brust led the Badgers (5-3) with 22 points, while Jared Berggren added 18 and Ryan Evans scored 13. Berggren also nearly missed his first career double-double, finishing with eight rebounds.
Cal (6-1) boasts a sizable lineup that out-rebounded each of its first six opponents with an average of 41.0 per game, though Wisconsin finished with a 36-30 advantage in that area. Granted, the the Bears have not been tested nearly as much as the Badgers have; they've played CSU Bakersfield, Pepperdine, Denver, Drake, Georgia Tech and Pacific so far.
"I know [Wisconsin head coach] Bo Ryan's teams well enough to know what you're going to get when you come here," Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said. "Virginia came in here and beat them, we knew we were going to get them at their best in terms of their effort and their physicality."
Mike Bruesewitz, who admitted displeasure with his play against Virginia, also tied for the team-high with eight rebounds. He added eight points -- all in the second half -- and five steals in one of his finer hustle efforts.
"I guess we just played harder. We got more rebounds, we got all the loose ones; that was the biggest thing. We took care of the small stuff, and that results in a lot more rebounds, I guess."
"He hit some timely threes because they were playing off, they were pressuring inside, they were doubling inside," Ryan said. "So this game hasn't changed. You have to find ways to get it done on each possession, and I thought our guys did a fairly good job at that."
Wisconsin came out somewhat cold, taking four minutes to score until Brust nailed a three. That triggered a 19-4 run over the next six minutes. Overall, the Badgers shot 51.7 percent (30-of-58) from the field. They also reached the free throw line 25 times after getting there only five times against Virginia -- though they made just 14 (56 percent) of those free throws.
Brust, in finishing 9-of-23 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range, played a critical role in elevating UW's high shooting percentages. He also contributed a team-high four assists, mainly off late dishes to a teammate around the basket following dribble-drives.
"I think there were a lot of the same looks," Brust said in comparison to the Virginia game. "It's just a matter of stepping up to the plate and being a man and finishing the play. It was good that the looks were there again, so it's just going to be continuing to finish them throughout the year."
Brust's greatest highlight might've came in the first half, with the Badgers leading 23-12 with just about 7:30 left until halftime. With a loose ball heading toward the sideline, Brust dove for the ball and saved it with a high, two-handed heave over his head. Cal guard Tyrone Wallace corralled it and pushed upcourt, but Brust recovered, sprinted up to him and poked the ball out from behind. The Badgers had their own fastbreak now, and finished it with a nifty up-and-under layup from Sam Dekker.
The freshman finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting -- all in the first half -- and five rebounds in 24 minutes, adding to his growing list of impressive first-season performances. Dekker has now scored in double-digits in four of his first eight games, as well as eight points on two other occasions.
"Sam's good. He's a good player, there's no question about that," Montgomery said. "He's the real deal. He could be a stretch 4, he could be a 3. He's got a really nice stroke, and he's very, very confident for a freshman. He came in and I think he probably surprised Allen [Crabbe], he posted up and Allen got a foul on him. We knew he was a good shooter facing, but they also posted him up a little bit. They ran a little different wrinkle."
One of Wisconsin's few disappointments on the day came in their point guard play, as George Marshall and Traevon Jackson each were held scoreless in 11 and 23 minutes, respectively. Brust even manned the point at moments in the second half, perhaps indicating Ryan is still looking for an answer at the position following Josh Gasser's season-ending injury. Zak Showalter, the other freshman besides Marshall in the point guard rotation, showed flashes in his 16 minutes on the floor, a career-high.
"We're in that position now where [Showalter] and Ben and Trae' and George, they've been playing better some nights than others," Ryan said. "Between those four, we've got to find guard play, that's just the way it is."
For Cal, Crabbe -- the Pac-12's scoring leader with 22.0 points per game entering today -- led with 25 points. After Crabbe sunk two free throws at the 15:00 mark in the first half to give the Bears a 6-5 lead, Cal never led for the remainder of the game. Their biggest deficit was 29, at the 4:39 mark.
In addition to their rebounding difficulties, the Bears also committed 22 turnovers to the Badgers' 13.
Out of halftime, the Badgers quickly built a 9-0 run to lead 48-29 at the 15:01 mark.