Learning the Hard Way

Jared Berggren was accustomed to sitting on the bench his first three seasons in Madison, but had not experienced a sit like he did on Saturday. Benched after struggling to get the job done against Ohio State, Berggren looks to bounce back against Minnesota Thursday.

MADISON - In the public forum, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan never drives the bus that runs over his players. If Ryan is going to ridicule a player for not doing his job, he's going to do in the privacy of the locker room or the film room.

He remained constant with that on Saturday, but Ryan didn't need to tell anybody that he was sending junior Jared Berggren a very strong message.

Assigned to cover Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger, Berggren watched as his defense yielded 10 of Sullinger's 16 first-half points on 4 of 6 shooting from the floor. He also was forced to foul twice after getting out of position, resulting in two Sullinger free throws, and yielded a pair of offensive rebounds that led to points.

Following Berggren's second foul, he sat for the final 4:36 of the first half. He played only 10 minutes in the second half, but was not solely responsible for Sullinger, as UW's double team of Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans caused the super sophomore to shoot only 2-for-8 for the remainder of the game.

In the post game media room, Ryan said the personnel change in the second half was an easy one, as he was looking for players who wanted to move their feet and keep Sullinger from getting easy touches in the post. Ryan didn't name names, but Berggren named himself.

"Start of the game, I didn't do a good job limiting his touches," Berggren said afterwards. "I let him get a couple easy ones early and that kind of set the tone from there. A great player like him, once he gets a little bit of confidence, he's hard to stop. A lot of it came early on, I let him get going and I have to take a little bit of blame on myself for that."

Berggren didn't address the media this week as No.21 Wisconsin prepares to travel to Minnesota on Thursday because of class commitments. However, the message was supposedly engrained into him on what needed to be done when watching UW's double team slow Ohio State's post production from the bench.

"It's a learning process and the quicker you can learn it, the better off you can be," assistant coach Gary Close said. "I think he understands what he's got to get done to get playing time and keep playing time. It was a big challenge. Sullinger makes it tough for a number of players to guard him.

"Sometimes you don't get the job done and you have to learn by it, move on and try to do better the next time."

While Wisconsin had no way of simulating the characteristics and tendencies of what a guy like Sullinger can do with its own scout team, Berggren wouldn't have used that as an excuse. After all, he didn't use his shoulder injury as a reason why his first two years in Madison were uneventful.

The way he saw it, those two years allowed him to study under two post players – Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil – that are currently playing professional basketball (Leuer with the Milwaukee Bucks, Nankivil overseas in Germany).

As a result, the positives have generally outweighed the negative. As an every-game starter for the first time, Berggren is second on the Badgers in scoring (10.5 ppg) and rebounds (5.0 rps) and leads the team in both blocks (39) and steals (25). Berggren is fourth in the conference in increased scoring average, raising his points per game 8.1 points from last season, a product of playing every game and learning from his predecessors.

"He's given us some low post options – at times – where we can go inside to get some baskets or draw some fouls," said Close. "He's given us some pretty good interior defense – for the most part – in covering ball screens. He hasn't gotten burned too much with that. He's given us some good minutes, but he'll be the first to tell you that he can improve in both of those areas, as well.

"This is his first season that he's gotten the chance to really play. Like our team, it's a work in progress."

If Berggren is looking for redemption, Minneapolis might be the perfect venue. Having playing high school basketball one hour north of the Twin Cities, Berggren has yet to log any minutes in the historic Williams Arena – a venue where Wisconsin has lost its last two games.

In fact, only four players on Wisconsin's roster have appeared in a game at Williams, combining for just 83 minutes and five points – all coming from senior point guard Jordan Taylor's 1-for-8 shooting performance as a sophomore.

Berggren has already watched UW lose from the benches below the Minnesota basketball court. Odds are he's ready to not do that again.

"He's trying to maintain a good strong effort and improve in some areas," said Close. "He worked on understanding the scouting report of what (Minnesota) is going to try and do and play the best possible game he can play - because we're going to need him – to try and get a win up there."

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