No. 6 Wisconsin beats California 68-56
By JOSH DUBOW
Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes, right, and forward Duie Dukan, left, celebrate during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Berkeley, Calif., Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has seen plenty of teams hit the road after a break for finals and come out flat. Nigel Hayes helped make sure the Badgers weren’t one of them.
Hayes controlled the game inside with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 6 Wisconsin returned from a nine-day layoff to beat California 68-56 on Monday night.
“You just have to keep planning and working and hope the players stick to their absolutes with the basics,” Ryan said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that. We took care of the ball, got high-percentage shots when we needed them, got to the free throw line. I thought we played pretty well considering we were the team traveling.”
Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky added 14 points apiece in the first game for the Badgers (11-1) since beating Nicholls State 86-43 on Dec. 13.
Tyrone Wallace scored 17 points and Jordan Mathews added 15 for the Golden Bears (10-2), who had their seven-game winning streak snapped. Cal had been off to its best start in 55 years under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin, with the only previous loss coming in New York against nationally ranked Texas.
“They’re both really good teams,” Cal forward David Kravish said. “They play well and when we made mistakes they made us pay.”
Wisconsin was a bit sluggish early but built a double-digit lead late in the first half and was never really threatened the rest of the way.
The Bears never got the deficit under nine points in the second half as Wisconsin throttled its offense up and Hayes delivered key baskets whenever Cal came close to mounting a threat.
“Nigel was great the whole game,” Kaminsky said. “He was doing a lot of things inside, setting the tone inside. When Nigel is playing like that, it makes it so much easier for everyone around him. He had a great game from start to finish.”
A pair of free throws and a 3-pointer from Josh Gasser built the lead to 18 with just more than 4 minutes left to put the game out of reach.
Cal scored eight straight points to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 17-16 midway through the first half. But the Badgers made five of their final six shots to take a 32-20 lead at the break on a three-point play from Duje Dukan with 27.6 seconds to go.
“I thought they won the battle around the rim,” Martin said. “I didn’t think we defended well in the low post. Hayes was the difference around the rim.”
Wisconsin: The Badgers have won 50 straight regular-season nonconference games against unranked teams since losing 58-51 to Notre Dame on Nov. 28, 2010. Wisconsin has won 27 of 28 nonconference games overall, with the only loss coming earlier this month against Duke.
California: Cal had won three of its previous six games against top-10 teams, including an upset of No. 1 Arizona last season. … Bears G Jabari Bird missed his sixth straight game with a foot injury. He is day to day.
Despite playing halfway across the country, the Badgers had plenty of support from a few thousand Wisconsin fans — many wearing red shirts.
“I had some cousins here. They were handing out red shirts,” Ryan joked. “We travel well — the Bahamas, Maui, Cancun. Wherever we go, our fans travel.”
Wallace shot 8 of 16 but got little help from the rest of the starting five. The other four California starters were 9 for 31.
Wisconsin: The Badgers host Buffalo on Sunday.
California: The Bears host Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday.