BERKELEY -- It was just too much.
Too much Sam Dekker, too much Frank Kaminsky, way too much Nigel Hayes.
A quick look at the starting lineup tells much of the story: the #6 Wisconsin Badgers (11-1) started a three-forward lineup against (10-2) Cal's three-guard lineup. There was never a question of IF there would be a mismatch inside for the Badgers, the question was who had it.
Kaminsky, who led the Big Ten with four double-doubles already this season, was held to one rebound in the second half, after posting seven before the intermission, but Hayes posted his third double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
In a rare matchup of Sams, Sam Singer guarded Sam Dekker and held him down well in the first half. Dekker scored just four of his 14 points before the half.
"I thought they won the battle around the rim," said Calfornia head coach Cuonzo Martin."At first, layups didn't fall. I didn't think we defended well on Hayes, I thought Sam did a great job on Dekker."
As has happened too frequently this year, the Golden Bears seemed to look almost exclusively to Tyrone Wallace in the continued absence of Jabari Bird. For a period of nearly 15 minutes spanning the intermission, only Wallace was able to score for the Bears.
Again, as seems to happen more often than any coach would want, Jordan Mathews was silent in the first half, 0-4 with no rebounds, no assists and a turnover. Mathews caught fire after the intermission, scoring nine straight points in a 2:45 stretch to help get the Bears back into the contest after they trailed 42-25 with 15 minutes left to play. Mathews finished with 15 points on 3-for-10 shooting, adding seven free throws.
Both teams took care of the ball, each committing just six turnovers in the game. That boded poorly for Cal, which had just two points off turnovers and four fastbreak points on the night. They were unable to get their transition game untracked at any point.
The Badgers won the battle of the glass, 39-29. Most telling was that Cal collected only five offensive boards, three of them coming in the final 67 seconds of play when all the starters for both teams were sitting down.
"They are a big team," said senior David Kravish. "From where I was, it didn't seem like they shoved us around too much, they had 8 offensive rebounds. You don't want to give up any, but I didn't feel like we got pushed around much."
Kravish has not looked like himself recently. After clearly improving each of his first three seasons, observers expected a solid senior year, but it hasn't been going his way of late. Kravish was 4-of-13 on the night with only three rebounds, but he did have a resounding block of Kaminsky early in the game.
When asked what's going on with his senior post player, Martin seemed perplexed, too. "I'm not sure what's going on with Kravish -- he got an opportunity to shoot the ball, he got 13 shots, you can't say he didn't have his shot. He's making shots in practice."
"He puts the time in, his shots will fall, I'm fine with that."
Both teams started ice cold, each missing six straight shots from the floor early on, but Wisconsin closed the first half making five of their final six tries after shooting just 7-for-21 to open the game. That allowed them to break open a tight, 17-16 game and post a 32-20 halftime edge.
Wisconsin doesn't turn the ball over (fewer than 9 per game), and they played a sound road game, aided by a large Badgers by the Bay contingent.
"I thought we played well," said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. "We made a similar trip about 10 years ago and we really did not play well. If you look at teams traveling a long distance to play after finals, you never know what you're gonna get. Players stuck to basics, took care of the ball, got high-percentage shots when they needed them. I thought we played well for the traveling team."
When asked why his team had difficulty making open shots early in the game, Ryan praised Cal's defenders.
"Cal played extremely hard on defense -- coach (Martin) played hard as a player, he is going to coach hard on defense, we expected that. Cal is a more athletic team than people give them credit for as far as stopping the ball. We played Arizona last year, now Cal, at 10-2, that's a good team. They pressured well without overextending or giving us back door plays. They made it tough for us to get clean looks at threes."
Next up for the Bears is their final non-conference tuneup against Cal State Bakersfield Sunday at Haas. Tip is at 7 pm.