Toughness was the focal point of the Wisconsin Badgers’ postgame comments following their 60-54 loss to Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge last week, with head coach Bo Ryan and the players lamenting the missed opportunities.
“There were so many opportunities where there were loose balls and it seemed like every time we were close to getting a big stop, the ball would bounce around and end up in their hands,” said forward Jared Berggren following the defeat.
“Those were just toughness plays that we didn’t make tonight and we’ve got to get back and get better at moving forward.”
It’s safe to say that the issue was addressed in the days leading up to Sunday’s matchup with California, a game in which the Badgers (4-3) jumped out quickly and rolled to an 81-56 victory. Ben Brust led the way with 22 points and Berggren added 18 and eight rebounds as Wisconsin got back on track and handed the Golden Bears (6-1) their first loss of the season.
Wisconsin made 51.7% of their shots and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which led to an 18-7 edge in second chance points. And the Badgers were solid defensively as well, limiting Cal to 38.3% shooting while also forcing 23 turnovers.
The turnover count was not only a season-high for Mike Montgomery’s team but also nearly ten more than their average (13.7) entering Sunday. Allen Crabbe led Cal, which was playing its first game since winning the DirecTV Classic, with 25 points but backcourt partner Justin Cobbs was held in check by Wisconsin.
Cobbs, who entered the game averaging 20.0 points per game and shooting 63.5% from the field, was limited to 11 points and shot 3-of-11 from the field.
To say the least this was quite the response for a Wisconsin squad that struggled offensively and on the glass against Virginia on Wednesday night. Point guard Traevon Jackson may not have scored in his second start of the season but his value as a defender was on display in the matchup with Cobbs.
After Wednesday’s defeat it was clear in their postgame comments that Wisconsin wasn’t pleased with their display in that important intangible. Sunday’s performance was without a doubt a step in the right direction.