Ben Brust, Bak Bak

Wisconsin bounces back from Wednesday’s defeat, whips California 81-56

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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.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.