Breakdown: No.6 Wisconsin vs. California

Playing its third true road game and sixth game away from home, No.6 Wisconsin faces one of its tougher nonconference tests when it takes on a talented California team in Haas Pavilion tonight. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.6 Wisconsin (10-1, 0-0 Big Ten) vs. California (10-1, 0-0 Pac-12)

Date/Time -Monday, December 22, 8 p.m. Central

Arena –Haas Pavilion (11,877)

Television -ESPN2 (Dave Pasch and Bill Walton)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – California leads 5-3 (California leads 3-0 in Berkeley, CA)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 81-56, on December 2, 2012 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 11.7 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-3 Senior Guard, 9.7 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 11.8 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 7.2 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 16.0 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 3.4 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 6.9 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 4.6 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Guard, 4.2 ppg)

California Probable Starters

2 Sam Singer (6-4 Sophomore Guard 4.0 ppg)

3 Tyrone Wallace (6-5 Junior Guard, 19.5 ppg)

14 Christian Behrens (6-8 Junior Forward, 8.3 ppg)

24 Jordan Mathews (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 13.0 ppg)

45 David Kravish (6-10 Senior Forward, 10.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Dwight Tarwater (6-6 Senior Forward, 3.5 ppg)

12 Roger Moute A Bidias (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 1.8 ppg)

22 Kingsley Okoroh (7-1 Freshman Center, 2.1 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON Shooting as high as 73.9 percent, No.5 Wisconsin hardly broke a sweat in its final game before exam week, easily beating Nicholls, 86-43, Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin (10-1) entered the game as 38-point favorites and nearly covered that spread with a 47-12 lead at halftime, thanks in large part to junior Sam Dekker scoring 13 of his game-high 17 points before the break.

“I like playing aggressive; I like making things happen,” said Dekker. “That’s what our team expects out of me; that’s what the coaches expect out of me; that’s what I expect out of myself.”

Ten different players scored for Wisconsin – including Dekker, Josh Gasser (14), Nigel Hayes (12), Frank Kaminsky (10) and Nigel Hayes (10) all in double figures.

UW shot 51.9 percent, forced 21 turnovers that led to 17 second-chance points and had significant edges in rebounds (41-26), points in the paint (36-16), fast-break points (8-2) and free throws (26-for-35 for UW to 5-for-8 for Nicholls).

It’s the second straight game Wisconsin has shot over 50 percent, a stark change from the 40.7 percent UW shot against Duke and the 32.7 percent against Marquette.

While the shooting problems lingered throughout the roster last week, two of the biggest culprits were Dekker and Hayes, who committed as many turnovers as made field goals (6-for-23).

Those problems appear to be in the past. After the duo combined for 30 points on 13-for-18 shooting against the Panthers, both players got the Badgers off to a fast start Saturday.

Hayes was 3-for-3 for seven points before the first media timeout, while Dekker had four points, two rebounds, an assist and a block, appearing to be nearing 100 percent after his gimpy ankle had been giving him problems.

The duo combined to score 29 points with Dekker going 6-for-10 and Hayes shooting a perfect 5-for-5 with a team-high eight rebounds.

In reality, nobody on the Badgers had very little trouble with Nicholls (1-5), which dropped to 0-5 away from its campus in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Wisconsin opened the game on a 37-6 run on 16-for-21 shooting and held the Colonels to 3-for-19 during that stretch and 18-for-52 (34.6 percent) for the game.

The Badgers finished the first half with 11 assists on 19 field goals, ball movement that helped the Badgers shoot 70.4 percent in the opening half.

-Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

More important than Wisconsin getting four players in double figures was the fact that the Badgers were relentless on the offensive and defensive glass. Not surprisingly, it resulted in a near complete performance in an 81-56 victory over California at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin (5-3) out muscled the Bears, who were averaging 41 rebounds per game, by a 36-30 rebounding advantage and a 14-12 edge on the offensive glass. Wisconsin turned 14 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint while limiting California (6-1) to seven second-chance points.

The majority of that production came from Wisconsin’s senior frontcourt, as Berggren (18 points), Mike Bruesewitz (8) and Ryan Evans (13) combined for 21 of UW’s rebounds and 11 of its second-chance points, as Wisconsin shot 51.7 percent (30-for-58) from the floor.

To call a victory in early December a ‘must win’ would seem premature but a loss would have put the Badgers in unfamiliar territory, being .500 or worst in the first week of December for the first time since Ryan’s first season in 2001.

Maybe that’s why the urgency was ratcheted up in more areas that rebounding. Wisconsin blocked five shots, held and saw its man-to-man ball pressure result in 23 California’s turnovers, as Wisconsin’s 16 steals were one shy of the school record of 17 set in 1988.

California came in averaging 74.7 points per game and shooting 48.8 percent, thanks in large part to its junior guard duo of Allen Crabbe (22.0 ppg) and Justin Cobbs (20.0 ppg).

Against Wisconsin, the Golden Bears shot 38.3 percent and held to a season-low point production. Crabbe got his points (a game-high 25), but Cobbs was held to 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting.

“It’s sticking with our rules and making them work really hard for what they got,” said junior Ben Brust, who scored a season-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting while helping defend Cobbs. “Once they shoot it, we got to finish the play and rebound. Overall, it’s making sure we’re working hard, working them and making sure they have to work on both ends of the floor.”

-Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

This game is the second part to a home-and-home series that began in 2012.

Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin faced Wisconsin seven times during his playing career at Purdue, owning a record of 5-2.

Cal assistant coach Tracy Webster played at Wisconsin from 1991-94, scoring 1,264 points. He still holds the UW career assists record with 501 and set the school 3-point shooting mark by hitting 49.0 percent (75-153) from long range in 1992. Webster also ranks second in Badgers annals with 183 career steals.

Wisconsin is 25-31 against schools currently in the Pac-12. In UW's last game against a Pac-12 school, the Badgers beat No.4 Arizona, 64-63, in the 2014 NCAA tournament Elite Eight in Anaheim, Calif.

The Bears own a 47-41 record against current Big Ten opponents. They have played Ohio State the most, splitting the 18 all-time meetings with the Buckeyes. Cal owns winning records against eight of the 13 Big Ten teams it has faced (have never played Rutgers), including a perfect 5-0 record against Michigan State.

Wisconsin is the last Big Ten opponent Cal has played. The Badgers are the first Big Ten team to play at Haas Pavilion since Penn State on Dec. 19, 2001. Cal defeated the Nittany Lions, 76-73.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin is 21-5 (.808) away from home over the last two seasons, going 11-2 at neutral sites and 10-3 in road venues. UW’s 21 road/neutral wins are the most among major conference teams and the Badgers’ .808 win percentage trails only Villanova (.818) and Louisville (.810).

According to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings, the Badgers are 3rd in the nation in adjusted offense (114.7) and 7th in defense (88.3). UW is 1 of 4 teams to rank among the top 10 in both categories (Kentucky, Villanova, Virginia).

After being hobbled by an ankle injury for a few games, Dekker returned to form 17 points in back-to-back wins last week. He is averaging 11.8 ppg and shooting 53.3 percent on the year.

Through 11 games, Wisconsin is allowing just 51.7 points per game, the top mark in the Big Ten and ranking seventh nationally.

Seven different Badgers have hit at least seven 3-pointers on the year. Josh Gasser ranks 12th in the Big Ten shooting 45.5% from 3-point range.

California Notes

With a 10-1 record, Cal is off to its best start in 55 years. The Bears also opened the 1959-60 season with 10 wins in their first 11 games. That team, directed by Hall of Fame Coach Pete Newell, dropped just one contest in its first 29 games, reaching the NCAA Championship game.

Cal has won its last 10 games at Haas Pavilion, dating back to last season, and its last 17 non-conference home games, dating back to the 2012-13 season.

Through 11 games, Cal is limiting opponents to just 59.4 points per game. The average is 7.9 ppg. less than the opponent average of 67.3 ppg. through Cal’s fi rst 11 games last season. While the sample size is small, the opponent’s scoring average is the lowest in 31 years, since the 1983-84 team held opponents to a 58.7 ppg. average in 28 contests.

Cal’s three returning starters – senior F David Kravish (10.5 ppg.), junior G Tyrone Wallace (19.5 ppg.) and sophomore G Jabari Bird (11.7 ppg.) – are responsible for 58.9 percent of the Bears’ scoring average of 70.8 ppg. in their first 11 games. Bird has missed the last five games with a foot injury and is questionable vs. Wisconsin.

Behrens was limited to just 16 games in his fi rst two seasons after sustaining a pair of knee injuries early in his career. After totaling just 258 minutes in 40 games over his fi rst three years in Berkeley, Behrens has logged 251 minutes this season and is Cal’s fourth-leading scorer at 8.3 ppg.

Prediction

Zak Showalter failed to get back on defense, leading to an easy bucket in transition and almost an assured spot on the bench next to head coach Bo Ryan. Instead of being resigned to his fate in a 60-27 basketball game two Saturdays ago, Showalter did something about it on the next possession.

Hustling back on a break, Showalter stood his ground and drew a charge on Nicholls’ guard Amin Torres. Another bucket would have been meaningless to the final score, but would have altered Showalter’s pride factor.

“His teammates love Zak Showalter,” said UW coach Bo Ryan. “He’s here for a reason. He’s a good player, not just a hustle guy. He’s scratching and clawing for some minutes. He knows there’s some good things coming. That’s what makes doing this so much fun. You get good, hard-working young men that don’t expect things to be handed to them. They’ve got to earn it. Those kind of guys are always fun to coach.”

Showalter is certainly having a blast this year for Wisconsin. He’s only averaging 6.8 minutes per game off the bench but anything beats having to sit in street clothes on the end of the bench.

Recognizing the amount of depth ahead of him last year, Showalter decided to use his redshirt, recognizing he would likely have a bigger impact as a fifth-year senior than limited minutes last season. He began to question that when George Marshall was injured after the second game, opening up some playing time, and almost regretted it as his teammates advanced to the Final Four.

But he stood the course, putting forth maximum effort on UW’s scout team while he waited for his opportunity.

“It was roughly 20 months since I played an actual game,” said Showalter. “There’s positives and negatives, which was what I kind of expected would happen. I knew it would be tough to sit there and watch a whole year. I didn’t know we’d go that far. It was tough to watch, but I feel like it’s going to pay off that I have three more years now.”

Limiting fast food from his diet, Showalter’s leaner frame has allowed him to match the physicality in Wisconsin’s practices. He recognizes that he doesn’t have to be a big scorer for Wisconsin with the amount of returning experience from last year’s Final Four run, but Showalter acknowledges his role as a hustle guy is something he doesn’t take lightly.

It’s one of the reasons why he hustled down court to take a charge in a 33-point game.

“He’s put a lot of time in on it,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “He’s definitely been a gym rat. He knew that was an area he needed to improve upon.”

In addition to hitting the weights hard, Showalter either worked with a manager in the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion or on his own using an automatic machine to feed him passes in order for him to hoist up a number of two-point and 3-point shots. Appearing in 22 games for a total of 147 minutes as a true freshman in 2012-13, Showalter was 11 of 29 from the field (37.9 percent) and missed eight of the 10 shots he attempted from 3-point range.

Even though UW returned seven of its top eight scorers from last season, Ben Brust did not return after playing a program-record 1,318 minutes last year, opening up an opportunity for Showalter to play if he could make some hustle plays and some shots.

“I’m hungrier now than I was two years ago,” said Showalter. “When you first get thrown into it, everything is happening so fast that you don’t get time to sit back and look at the situation. This being my third year, I can look at everything from a better perspective and see where I am at.”

Where Showalter sits is on the sixth-ranked team in the country playing their third true road game of the season. And while Marquette and Milwaukee were challenges in their own right, the Bears are off to their best start since 1959-60 and have a ton of talent, namely Wallace.

Having adapted to the point guard role this season, Wallace has increased his scoring average by more than 10 points compared to last year (ranking second in the Pac-12 at 19.5 ppg), is fourth in the league in rebounding (8.9 rpg) and has nearly doubled his assist average, improving from 2.7 assists per game his first two seasons to 4.4 per contest this year.

During Cal’s seven game winning streak, Wallace is averaging 21.3 points and 9.7 rebounds, shooting 53.8 percent and 54.5 percent from 3-point range. Assistant head coach Gary Close said Wallace could be the best guard Wisconsin faces this season, high praise considering the league UW plays in.

The Bears play tough, hard-nosed defense. They are very similar to Wisconsin, which shouldn’t be surprising considering head coach Cuonzo Martin played for the Boilermakers and Bears associate head coach Tracy Webster is still UW’s all-time assist leader.

All things considered, I think Wisconsin is playing Cal at the right time. The Badgers have had eight days off to regroup and are used to playing these challenging games. Moreover, the Bears are on break, so the home crowd might not be as jovial as it usually would be.

Expect Kaminsky and Hayes to take advantage of Cal’s lack of interior size and for Gasser, Showalter and others to pester Wallace, all of which should help UW win by 10.

Worgull's Record: 10-1

Points off Prediction: 83 (7.5 per game)


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