"Being down nine at half, even though in the locker room the score was 0-0, it could have been a lot worse than that," Ryan said.
With Wisconsin facing its first deficit at halftime this season, the Badgers came out with a fire unmatched, and frankly unneeded, in their first four victories of the season (four wins where the average margin of victory was 37 points) by rebounding from playing their worst half of the season to playing their best, outscoring Georgia 45-17 in the final 20 minutes to win 68-49.
Wisconsin found its fire right out of the locker room, going on a 9-0 run in the first three minutes of the second half that was keyed by sophomore point guard Trevon Hughes finally finding his shot and two big blocks by senior team-leader Greg Stiemsma.
Wisconsin's defense, after allowing 32 first-half points, clamped down, allowing only 17 points as the Bulldogs shot just 20 percent (6-for-30) from the field and committed seven turnovers after intermission.
"The momentum – that's what changed and the defense at the other end," said Hughes, referring to Stiemsma's blocks. "It made the whole team come together. The strong point of our game right now is our defense. We're a good defensive team and that's what we want to be."
Not only was the defense working, but the offense picked up. Wisconsin's shooting percentage went up 17 percentage points, grabbed nine more offensive rebounds and registered seven more assists, getting everyone in the offense involved.
"To almost double what we had in the first half and to hold them to almost half of what they scored in the first half, that's what you have to look at and say, on the fly, that they figured some things out and made better decisions," Ryan said. "By moving the ball better, better spacing and the guards making better decisions, we shot a better percentage.
"We missed some we should have had inside but our shot selection was much better."
Whatever the cause, the Badgers shook off one of the sloppiest first-half performances in recent memory.
Wisconsin made just seven shooting attempts from the floor and could generate no consistency from the perimeter. After Hughes sunk the game's first shot - a three pointer from the top of the key – to give UW the early lead, Wisconsin reliance on the three-point try became overwhelming.
Four different players took a try from beyond the arc and none of them looked particularly pretty.
Hughes missed his next seven three-point attempts in the first half, Brian Butch – who entered the game 0-for-6 from distance - continued his struggles by missing two and even marksman Jason Bohannon succumbed to the poor shooting, delivering an uncharacteristic air ball from the corner.
Out of the 28 field goal attempted by UW for the half, 11 (39 percent) of them were from beyond the perimeter and only Hughes' first attempt went in.
Wisconsin didn't help its cause by committing 10 first-half turnovers, a season-high for one half of basketball for UW, and four of them were off the hands of Hughes.
"(The guards) weren't the only guys that had to make some tough decisions," Ryan said. "(Georgia) didn't care about how many fouls they were going to commit, they were just going to be real physical and make us counter."
Just like the turnaround in the scoring production, the ball-handling issue by all parties concerned was quickly corrected.
Wisconsin committed just three turnovers in the second half compared to 10 they made in the first half.
Hughes fumbled the ball only once and went 6-for-8, including 2-for-4 from the perimeter, to finish with a game-high 18 – the fourth time he's led the Badgers in points this season.
With their toughest test so far of this young season passed and Wisconsin's next opponent bringing a similar physical nature (it's Duke and not on the Big Ten Network), Ryan knows that his team can make the necessary changes when the first 20 minutes don't go according to script.
"That's why the game is 40 minutes," Ryan said. "After 20 minutes, our guys realized what was going on and made the adjustment."