After having a nine day layoff since its last game against Nicholls and going on the road to play a California team that was off to its best start (10-1) in the last 55 years, Wisconsin predictably started sluggish (2-for-10) over the first handful of minutes but still recovered to shoot 43.6 percent (24-for-55) from the field.
Wisconsin didn’t fare much better from 3-point range as a team (3-for-11 for 27.3 percent) but was able to take over the paint by scoring almost half of its points around the hoop, as they finished the game with 32 points.
It was key for Wisconsin to have success down low against an undersized Cal team, and it helps when you have two bigs in Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes who have the ability to pass and be threats from wherever they are on the floor. The presence of those two caused the Bears’ defense to collapse on them, resulting in open teammates for Wisconsin. Although Kaminsky and Hayes only finished the game with one assist each, both were able to consistently find open teammates from the post, which resulted in successful offensive possessions.
Three Badgers were able to score in double figures with Nigel Hayes leading the way with 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Hayes also was able to grab 13 rebounds, which tied a career high for the sophomore. It also was his third double-double of his career. Sam Dekker and Kaminsky both finished the game with 14 points.
Wisconsin balanced not having one of its best shooting nights from the field by being fundamentally sound with the basketball, finishing the game with six turnovers, its third lowest output this season. Traevon Jackson who led the team with four assists also led Wisconsin in turnovers with three. Despite the limited miscues by the Badgers, California couldn’t convert as they were only able to generate two points off of the Badger turnovers.
Tyrone Wallace – one of the best guards assistant coach Gary Close said the Badgers would see this year – got his production with a team-high 17 points and Jordan Mathews added 15, but UW shutdown all the other role players. The other three starters were a combined 6-for-21 (including 4-for-13 by David Kravish) and the Bears bench delivered only 11 points.
Even Wallace and Mathews had to work, as Wallace needing 16 shots to reach his total and Mathews went 3-for-10. UW held Cal to 38.9 percent (21-for-54) and without a 3-point or free-throw attempt in the first half. The Bears scored 16 of their 20 first-half points in the paint, but halftime adjustments dropped Cal’s points in the paint to only 12 in the second half.
Wisconsin’s team defense on Wallace was impressive. In addition to the Badgers forcing Wallace into mostly difficult shots, UW’s pressure forced Wallace into committing four of his team’s six turnovers.
UW’s size inside helped Wisconsin’s bigs dominate the scoring and keep Cal off the offensive glass, as the Bears only secured five offensive rebounds.
It was a game of runs between Wisconsin and California and UW managed to win that battle. The first run for Wisconsin started in the first half, as Wisconsin overcame a poor first five minutes by going on a 13-4 run to help create some space by putting them up by nine points.
After Cal cut the lead to 17-16, Wisconsin – with the help of Kaminsky facilitating offense in the post - made five of its last six shots they took from the field to go on a 15-4 run to end the half, resulting in a 12-point lead at the break. Wisconsin also came out strong and was able to start the second on a 10-5 run to keep the Bears at a distance.
As expected the Bears made one last run to see if they could close the deficit by one point like they did in the first half but the closest they got was to eight points at the 9:46 mark in the second half. On the ensuing offensive possession by the Badgers Kaminsky was able to hit a three to get the lead back to double digits and California was never able to cut it back to single digits after that shot.
It was good to see Wisconsin consistently weather two comebacks with runs of its own to rebuild double-digit leads, at one point as many as 19 points. Part of the reason for that was Wisconsin winning the rebounding battle (39-to-29), marking the 10th time over Wisconsin’s first 12 games in which they have out rebounded its opponent.
During Wisconsin’s runs, they were able to get themselves to the free throw line and finished the game 17-for-18 (94.4 percent) from the charity stripe. Wisconsin managed to find themselves in a couple of ‘and-one’ situations, which helped consistently build the lead by cashing in on the three-point play. The only miss came from Dekker, who went 4-for-5 in the game. Hayes went perfect from the free throw line going 5-for-5, who is now shooting 70 percent from the free throw line this season.
Game MVP: Nigel Hayes. In addition to his free throws, points and rebounds, Hayes was a large presence in the center of the lane by causing disruption from Cal’s three-guard lineup that required players to rush, force or alter shots. That led to transition opportunities or turnovers. His 13 rebounds is five more than any other player. Hayes said he felt comfortable going into the game and it certainly showed.
BadgerNation's Brian Becker contributed to this report