MADISON, Wis. - Even though it was just an exhibition game, the UW-Oshkosh Titans at least led the Wisconsin Badgers for a few minutes during their 96-44 loss to Wisconsin last week. The Southeastern Louisiana Lions had no such luck. The Badgers won the opening tip, and then smothered the Lions in an 87-47 win Sunday at the Kohl Center. It was the first win of the season for the No. 23 Badgers, while the Lions fell to 0-1 with the loss.
Wisconsin's stout defense was on display early on in the game, as the Badgers gave up just five points to the Lions through the first 12 minutes of play. It was just the start of a strong defensive effort for the Badgers, who held the Lions to just 25 percent shooting in the first half, allowing the Badgers to jump out to a 43-17 lead at halftime. The Lions responded by shooting 46.2 percent from the floor in the second half, but it wasn't enough to bring the game within reach.
And unlike their exhibition win, the Badgers didn't struggle to make shots out of the gate. Jared Berggren led all scorers with 19 points, and Ben Brust recorded the first double-double of his career with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Berggren said after the game he felt like he played well, but there were a few more rebounds he left out on the court. As a team the Badgers out-rebounded the Lions 49-22, but Berggren fell just two rebounds short of a double-double of his own.
"I feel like I played alright," Berggren said. "There was a couple in the first half where I didn't finish- I'd like to finish a little stronger around the basket. There's always room for improvement, but I think overall we did a pretty good job playing our game."
Senior forward Mike Bruesewitz also scored 10 points off the bench in his first game action since undergoing surgery on his right leg during the preseason, and said he was glad to get back on the court so soon after lacerating his leg during practice. Bruesewitz said he wasn't sure if he'd be able to play again right after the injury, which required over 100 stitches, but he seems ready for a larger role now that he's back on the court.
"When you see your bone and a freak thing like that happens, a lot of stuff runs through your head," Bruesewitz said. "I'm definitely recharged and refocused. I was really excited to come into the season before the injury, and now it's about 10 times more, if you can say that."
Bruesewitz logged 13 minutes of playing time during the game, and Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said Bruesewitz will probably see his role expand in the near future, once they get clearance from the training staff.
The Badgers might have been able to coast by the Lions for most of the game Sunday, but their strength of schedule is about to take a big step up. The Badgers are scheduled to travel to Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday to take on the No. 10 Florida Gators in what should be their first big test of the season.
The Gators are coming off another strong season where they made the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight, but Berggren said the Badgers wouldn't approach this next game any differently than they have before.
"We're going to stick to our rules," Berggren said. "It's just basketball, no matter who you're playing you're trying to do the same things. Obviously we know we have a tough test coming this week with Florida."
Wisconsin's game with Florida is set to tip off at 6:00 p.m. CST, and is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN2.