MADISON, Wis. (AP) — After a dismal performance on defense in its last game, Wisconsin turned up the pressure against Cornell.
Though the 22nd-ranked Badgers had allowed Florida to shoot 62 percent from the field in a loss on Wednesday, they had no such problems in Sunday’s 73-40 win over the Big Red.
“What we did do a good job of was chesting up and not leaving our feet and not getting out of position, and that accounts for the shooting percentage of the other team, Cornell,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “I thought we stuck to our rules a little better.”
The Big Red (1-3) started just 1 of 11 and Cornell found itself down 27-8 with just less than 8 minutes to go in the first half. Cornell then went to a trapping defense that had some success in forcing Wisconsin (2-1) turnovers and picking up the pace of the game as the Big Red cut it to 27-14.
But the pressing defense also left Wisconsin shooters open, and the Badgers hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions. A Sam Dekker steal and dunk on the breakaway pushed the lead to 38-16 with just more than 3 minutes left in the first half, and Wisconsin largely cruised from there.
“That kind of broke our backs a little bit right in the beginning of the game,” said Cornell coach Bill Courtney. “Our guys continued to fight, but I think we were just a little bit overmatched tonight.”
It was a struggle offensively most of the night for Cornell, which was led by Devin Cherry with 13 points. Cornell ended up shooting just 26 percent and was outrebounded 54-31, the most boards a Wisconsin team has turned in under Ryan.
Meanwhile, 6-foot-1 guard Ben Brust turned in a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Jared Berggren scored 18 and Ryan Evans had a double-double of his own with 12 points and 10 boards.
Brust averaged 2.2 boards a game last season, but is now averaging eight a game early in the season. The 6-10 Berggren joked after Sunday’s game, “I am just sick of it because he’s stealing all my stats.”
But Brust said it was simply a matter of opportunity with Cornell shooting poorly. With Florida shooting so well on Wednesday, Brust grabbed just two boards.
“That’s why there was so many chances for rebounds because we actually got them to miss shots compared to Florida,” Brust said. “There wasn’t a lot of opportunities for rebounds (against Florida) because we didn’t force them into enough tough shots.”
It could have been worse for the Big Red, but Wisconsin was uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, committing 16 turnovers. That snapped a streak of 69 straight games with 13 or fewer.
Courtney said Cornell hoped the pressure would disrupt the flow of the Wisconsin offense and force the Badgers to speed things up. But he said Ryan made the necessary adjustments to cut that off.
Ryan believed inexperience hurt the Badgers in dealing with the pressure and said his players sometimes put their teammates in a tough spot that led to the turnover.
“It was just one of those things under the lights, we’ve got some guys who didn’t have a lot of experience,” he said.
The game was the first of four in seven days for Wisconsin as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. After hosting Presbyterian on Tuesday, the Badgers head to Las Vegas to face No. 15 Creighton.