When the Badgers tip-off with Ohio State (7-6 Big Ten, 18-9 overall) at 1 p.m. Sunday, it will be the seventh time this season they are playing after a loss. UW (8-5, 17-7) is a perfect 6-0 in such situations and has not lost back-to-back games since Feb. 18 and 22, 2004, when the Badgers suffered consecutive road losses to Illinois and Michigan.
"We have a bunch of guys that are willing to learn and willing to work hard and work on the stuff that we didn't do right in the last game," senior forward Mike Wilkinson said. "I think that's a big advantage as far as just bouncing back the next game is just you take what you did wrong and try to improve on it in practice and try not to make the same mistake twice."
After losing four of their first five games (including a three-game losing streak) in Ryan's first season as Wisconsin's head coach, the Badgers have only lost consecutive games three times — once in each of Ryan's first three conference campaigns – and they have not had a losing streak extend beyond two games since.
One common denominator in the trio of mini-conference skids is that in each case the Badgers suffered consecutive road losses.
Sunday, Wisconsin is aiming to bounce back from a road loss to No. 10 Michigan State and looking for its first road win this season over a team that currently has a winning record.
"After a loss I think guys realize that we're not where we want to be and we have to just start clicking more as a team, especially on the road," sophomore guard Kammron Taylor said. "It is coming down to crunch time at the end of the season where every win counts."
"I don't know," Ryan said, when asked Friday why his team seems to play so well after losses. "We are just going to play the next game.
"Why wouldn't you?" he added. "It doesn't make any sense to ever think any differently or to even wonder. I don't wonder, that's not how you coach. You prepare. See what happens."
Later, asked whether he had to remind the Badgers' younger players to let go of a loss, Ryan said that, when recruiting, he and his staff look for players who do not need to be reminded to be competitive. The players that catch the Badgers' eyes, he said, are the ones that tend to come to the gym early to work on their game, whether preparing for high school competition or AAU ball.
"They're out there practicing hard and getting loose and then when the game starts they're ready to play, they're taking charges, they're diving on the floor because you always come ready to play," Ryan said. "You don't have to remind those kind of guys. There are just some people in life that hate to lose more than others and they do something about it."
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, there has been a lot of talk recently of bouncing back from losses. The Badgers have alternated road losses with home wins in their past five outings, splicing in wins over Iowa and Michigan with losses at Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State.
"I know we have a good record after we lose a game but we don't want to have to keep playing the whole season like that," Taylor said. "You don't want to go and lose a game and then, you know, say, ‘we know we are going to win the next one because that's what we usually do.' We want to be able to go on the road and win and come home and win. We just have to put it together."
Third place battle draws tighter
Wisconsin is tied with Indiana (8-5, 13-11) for third place in the Big Ten entering play Sunday, when the Hoosiers host Michigan State.
Minnesota (9-6 Big Ten, 19-9 overall) won at Purdue Saturday to draw within mere percentage points of IU and UW. Ohio State (7-6, 18-9) is a game back.
"Ohio State, this is going to be another tough road game," sophomore forward Alando Tucker said. "But it is just getting the team together and realizing that it is going to be tough from here on out. We had our ups and downs but now as a team we are together and we have to finish this thing out strong."