Badgers are slowly getting better
MADISON Wisconsin center Jared Berggren said the troubling thing is that the Badgers keep making the same mistakes over and over.
After fixing some of them in the middle of their 65-54 win over UW-Green Bay on Wednesday, the Badgers now have 10 days to work out some more kinks and try to get on a roll ahead of the Big Ten season.
"We know what we are capable of as a team, and we know that we can play better than what we've shown to this point in the season," Berggren said. "There are signs of what we are capable of. Once we get that consistency down a little better, get a little more experience, get to know each other a little better, we'll get on a roll."
Coming off a deflating loss to in-state rival Marquette on Saturday, Wisconsin (7-4) started the game in a bit of a funk. Missing starter Mike Bruesewitz for a second straight game after he suffered a concussion in practice last week, they hit just four of their first 14 shots, and Green Bay (3-6) led, 19-12, a little more than midway through the first half.
It was the same trouble—an offense that can sometimes go stagnant—that has plagued the Badgers in past poor performances this season.
But then things started to click, and the Badgers went on a 15-4 run to close the half. Wisconsin took its first lead of the game when Berggren took a feed from Ryan Evans down the lane, threw down a dunk and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to give Wisconsin a 25-23 lead. Freshman Sam Dekker, starting in the place of Bruesewitz, finished off the scoring for the half with a put-back of his own miss.
Green Bay coach Brian Wardle said the Phoenix needed to start the second half playing more like they did to open the first. Instead, it was the Badgers who again had the hot hand.
The Badgers hit nine of their first 12 shots, including a 12-4 run to take control of the game after back-to-back alley-oops. The first was from Ben Brust to Berggren, the second from Evans to Dekker.
The Badgers led by as many as 16, and the Phoenix cut the Wisconsin lead to single digits with just less than 8 minutes to go but would get no closer the rest of the way.
"Once you dig yourself a hole against a Wisconsin team, a team coached by Bo Ryan, down 10 or 12 points, it's hard," Wardle said. "You have to chip away slowly, but that 10 points sometimes feels like it's 20. Against other teams, you feel like you can get right back in it, but against them, they work the clock, they're patient, they take their time and we had way too many defensive breakdowns to make a run."
Ryan said the Badgers didn't panic after getting down early and continued to approach the game one possession at a time before righting the ship.
"That's a lot of learning that takes place in 40 minutes," Ryan said. "There's a lot of teams that get better during the course of the game, and I thought that's what our guys did."
Evans scored 13 points to lead Wisconsin, while Dekker and Berggren each added 10. Keifer Sykes scored 14 points to lead the Phoenix, while Brennan Cougill had 12.
Both teams now have a chance to regroup after Wednesday. The Phoenix return home for four games after a three-game road losing streak.
The Badgers have the next 10 days off to worry primarily about finals. Berggren also said Wisconsin can use the break to heal from some nagging bumps and bruises and refocus after an early stretch that left them with a record that is below expectations.
"We're doing some good things, but I don't think we're doing it at a consistent level," he said.
WISCONSIN 65, GREEN BAY 54
Green Bay (54)—Fouse 2-3 0-0 4, Brown 3-11 2-4 8, Cougill 3-11 6-6 12, Muhammad 2-3 0-0 6, Sykes 7-18 0-0 14, Love 2-4 0-0 4, Cerroni 1-4 0-0 3, Mays 1-2 1-2 3, Arenz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 9-12 54.
Wisconsin (65)—Evans 5-12 3-6 13, Dekker 3-7 2-2 10, Berggren 4-7 2-3 10, Brust 2-7 2-4 6, Jackson 2-4 0-0 4, Marshall 2-3 0-0 6, Showalter 3-5 1-3 8, Bohannon 0-1 0-0 0, Kaminsky 3-5 2-2 8. Totals 24-51 12-20 65.
Green Bay 23 31—54
Wisconsin 27 38—65
Three-point goals—Green Bay 3-12 (Muhammad 2-3, Cerroni 1-3, Sykes 0-1, Love 0-1, Cougill 0-2, Brown 0-2), Wisconsin 5-13 (Marshall 2-3, Dekker 2-4, Showalter 1-2, Kaminsky 0-1, Brust 0-1, Bohannon 0-1, Jackson 0-1). Fouled Out—Brown. Rebounds—Green Bay 35 (Cougill 12), Wisconsin 32 (Evans 7). Assists—Green Bay 6 (Sykes 4), Wisconsin 15 (Brust 5). Total Fouls—Green Bay 21, Wisconsin 11.