MADISON, Wis. -- Well, today sure was something.
It began, as you know, with Bret Bielema ditching Wisconsin for Arkansas. It ended, you may or may not know depending on the extent of your fandom, with the men's basketball team thrashing the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks, 86-40.
At least one of those events was expected.
Ben Brust led Wisconsin (6-3) with 15 points, and his 10 rebounds yielded his fourth double-double of the season. The junior guard is the first Badgers player with at least four double-doubles in a season since Jon Leuer had six in 2010-11. Wisconsin also totaled all of four double-doubles as a team last season.
"No, not for us. Maybe [Michigan State head coach] Tom Izzo can, I can't," Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen when asked if there was any way to stop Brust when he's draining shots from so deep (Brust was 4-of-8 from 3-point range, including some very deep treys). "That makes it difficult because there were three or four times tonight where I thought we followed our scout pretty well and made a guy take a shot, but then they pulled up in transition."
Jared Berggren finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Ryan Evans had one of his finest efforts of late with 10 points, a career-high-tying 11 rebounds and his second double-double of the season.
The two other double-digit scorers were the youngins, sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and freshman forward Sam Dekker with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Granted, the results came against a 2-8 Omaha team only in its second year of Division I play. But given Kaminsky's struggles this year -- he's had just one other double-digit scoring effort and has seen his minutes drop steadily -- the outing was especially encouraging.
"I think he's feeling a lot better," head coach Bo Ryan said. "I think he's getting some of his energy back. That's just a coach's observation, because I study my players quite a bit, and I can tell. A player always feels they're ready to go, but coaches have this gut feeling about things.
"I just felt he wasn't quite ready to get the kind of minutes that hopefully he can contribute for us down the road here. But he definitely looked more comfortable today."
Wisconsin started the game somewhat "slowly," spotting Omaha a three-point lead at the 16:45 mark. That obviously was the last time the Mavericks led, as the Badgers ended the half with a 12-0 run and held Omaha scoreless for the last 4:31 of the half. The Mavericks also managed just 13 first-half points on 21.7 percent shooting. They finished 33.3 percent for the game (17-of-51) while the Badgers sunk 48.6 percent of their shots (34-of-70).
Wisconsin also forced Omaha into 19 turnovers, giving them 42 over their last two games. Aside from the individual stat lines, that made the team defensive UW's story of the game.
"I think we've made some solid improvements," Berggren said. "You look back to a game like Florida, or some of our earlier games, even Creighton, they put up pretty big scoring numbers on us. I think we've done a lot better job of helping each other; rotating defensively, when guy steps up to help, we've done a better job of if a big guy steps up to help, the guards are wrapping back in and deflecting passes and doing all those things. Sticking their nose in there and being aggressive, knocking balls off guys' legs, stuff like that."
Wisconsin surrendered 74 points to Florida, 84 to Creighton and 60 to Virginia in their three losses this season. With most of the wins coming against teams of dramatically inferior caliber and a trip to face 5-2 Marquette looming this Saturday -- the Gators most recently dismantled the Golden Eagles, 82-49, last Thursday -- the Badgers recognized their need for continued improvement.
"I think all three losses, even with the Virginia game, they're still eating away at us," Brust said. "There' definitely some things, especially in the Virginia game, that just stuck with us. I know a lot of guys took that personally. You know what's coming on Saturday, so we're looking forward to getting to practice and getting ready for that one."