Depending on your point of view, Monday was either a perfect night of college basketball or a nightmare. If you are a Badger fan who loves the strange verbal meanderings of color commentator Bill Walton, nothing could have been finer than Wisconsin's methodical demolition of California with the big redhead on the mic.
Now, just imagine if you were a Cal fan who can't stand Walton ... it would have been a long night.
Here's what went right for Wisconsin in its 68-56 win over the Golden Bears.
Man of the Match: Nigel Hayes
Stat line: 17 points, 13 rebounds, 1 perfect assist, 1 TO, 6-of-13 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs
Hayes was hitting guarded jumpers, turnaround jumpers and spin moves for dunks. He gobbled up rebounds at a career-high pace. The sophomore was a bull inside on offense and also a rock inside on defense. It was kind of funny to watch various Cal players bounce off him to the ground.
The highlight of the night may have been Hayes' perfect bounce pass to a cutting Duje Dukan on a give-and-go, which Dukan converted into an acrobatic three-point play in the second half. Granted, it wasn't a perfect night for Hayes -- he did get assessed a technical for
failing to check in at the scorer's table talking trash, according to Jim Polzin. Tsk tsk.
Shots weren't falling early for Wisconsin, but you never saw panic. Following the examples of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in the post, the Badgers were patient. They engineered a 32-20 halftime lead and never let the lead shrink smaller than eight points. Despite being a little sloppy with their ballhandling, I thought UW's passing was pretty crisp for the most part too.
Cal guard Sam Singer played a great defensive game -- dare I say"Gasser-esque" -- against the much taller Dekker, but Dekker took the ball directly at Singer to start the second half to reaffirm the team's control of the game. From there, Wisconsin stretched its cushion to 61-43 by the four-minute mark.
Wisconsin's bench looked relaxed as well. With Kaminsky on the bench early in the game, Bronson Koenig hit the three-pointer that broke a 4-4 stalemate and sparked the Badgers' scoring. Vitto Brown got into the act on both ends, hitting a jumper and moving his feet well on defense.
Wisconsin's interior defense
Cal started the game 2-for-10 from the field, with many of those misses coming on point blank shots. The Bears -- poor Christian Behrens in particular -- just couldn't convert in the paint on anything that didn't begin as a drive from Tyrone Wallace. And even Wallace gave his pedometer a workout running all over the court to find an angle to throw up a runner from. Part of the reason why was Wisconsin's ability to contest shots. And even better? Contesting shots without fouling. Against a team so hesitant to shoot three-pointers like Cal, it put them UW a great position to control the game.
Though the box score won't show a big advantage for Wisconsin offensively, UW out-rebounded the Bears 39-29. The Badgers committed their first foul of the second half at the 11:34 mark, which was only their third foul of the game at that point. Furthermore, Cal shot no free throws by the time Wallace sank the team's first three-pointer with 16 minutes remaining. The Bears eventually starting taking (and making) more threes, but the game was already decided by then.
Bay Area Badgers
Wisconsin fans are known for traveling well. Add that characteristic to an area already known for a strong alumni chapter and you have a recipe for helping the Badgers on the court feel as close to home as possible. A B5Q member who attended the game commented that UW fans appeared to make up 40 percent of the crowd at Haas Pavilion. Watching on TV, I don't think that was a huge exaggeration; there was a lot of red in the building. They were loud enough to hear "airball" chants directed at a Cal player.
Aaron Moesch's first collegiate hoop
The redshirt freshman forward scored on a beautiful post rebound and put back in the final minutes.