MADISON, Wis. - From a distance, the California Golden Bears looked like a tough matchup for the Wisconsin Badgers, who were coming off a tough home loss to Virginia earlier in the week. But the Badgers rebounded, both literally and figuratively, and beat the Golden Bears 81-56 Sunday afternoon in the Kohl Center.
After Virginia out-rebounded the Badgers 36-25 Wednesday night, the Badgers beat the Golden Bears on the glass by pulling down 36 rebounds to California's 30. The Golden Bears also turned the ball over 23 times, and the Badgers didn't let those extra chances go to waste. The Badgers scored 25 points off of California turnovers, completing a solid win for the Badgers as they kick off the final month before the start of Big Ten play.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said that while he was happy with his team's performance on the glass, a part of it was because of his team's good night on the offensive side of the ball.
"When you shoot around 50 percent or a little better there's not a lot to go get," Ryan said. "It's about positioning; sometimes it's about where the ball bounces some games. It isn't a science. It's an opportunistic part of the game. Some nights you're a little better than others."
Ben Brust led all scorers with 22 points in the game, and Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Sam Dekker also finished the game in double figures. The Badgers shot 51.7 percent as a team in the game, including 33.3 percent from behind the arc. After shooting just 38.2 percent against Virginia, Brust said he and his teammates were converting a lot of the same looks into points this time around.
"I think there were a lot of the same looks," Brust said. "A lot of the time it was just stepping up to the plate, being a man and finishing the play. It was good that the looks were there again."
And after the Badgers said that the Cavaliers out-toughed them earlier in the week, the team made a lot more of the hustle plays, like diving for rebounds, that forward Mike Bruesewitz said often determines who wins and who loses.
"It's not a big secret," Bruesewitz said. "We have to play harder than teams to beat them. That's the simplest thing. The team that plays harder generally wins. That's what we did tonight."
The Badgers also held Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, the Pac-12's top two scorers, to a combined 36 points in the game. As a team the Golden Bears shot 38.3 percent from the floor, nearly ten points percent lower than their season average of 48.8 percent. Ryan said the team played better than they did against Virginia, partly because they stuck to their own defensive rules.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on Cobbs, because he's been scoring like crazy," Ryan said. "Crabbe wen through that one little stretch, but then when you're up 20 or 25 and a guy's firing three's from 28 feet, we don't go out there and foul those guys. They've got two guys that can score on anyone in the country."
The Badgers have a home date with Nebraska-Omaha up next, which is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. CST. After that, the Badgers will renew the I-94 rivalry with in-state rival Marquette on Saturday night.