Lucas' Last Word: Confidence still high as Badgers search for identity

<b>Berggren leads UW with 14.3 points per game, but is also trying to lead his team.</b>


Berggren leads UW with 14.3 points per game, but is also trying to lead his team.

Dec. 10, 2012

After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin's 60-50 loss at Marquette.

BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com

MADISON, Wis. -- Minus one of the most indispensable pieces to the puzzle – Josh Gasser whose value has been magnified in his absence – Wisconsin center Jarred Berggren can still picture how this team could look in the Big Ten if the lessons from the four nonconference losses are learned and applied.

“We still have the confidence that we can be a good team,” Berggren said.

With the exception of the Florida blowout – “We really didn’t play our game and we let things get away from us,” Berggren said – the Badgers have put themselves in position for a better fate. Midway through the second half, they led Creighton and Virginia and trailed Marquette by one score.

The Creighton game was particularly competitive in that it featured 10 ties and 18 lead changes.

“We’ve been right there – with just a few plays here or there – it could be a completely different result,” Berggren reasoned. “We’re not far off. We’re knocking on the door. At the same time, we have four losses and we have to turn things around quickly. We can’t afford to take too many more.”

Three of the four defeats have come outside of the Kohl Center.

“It’s good to play a tough non-conference schedule,” Berggren said. “We’d rather do this and maybe take a few losses and, more importantly, learn from them. Hopefully that’s what we’re doing right now – we’re learning and getting better. As we go into Big Ten play, it’s only going to help us.”

Mike Lucas
MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Insider
mlucas@uwbadgers.com

After 10 games, the Badgers have yet to fully establish an identity as far as who they are, and what they can do. But there have been mitigating circumstances beyond the expected graduation loss of Jordan Taylor, a three-year fixture at point guard. Gasser’s injury has created a void in the backcourt.

“I definitely think it’s a fair assessment; this late in the season we’d like to have it (an identity) a little more established than what it is,” said Berggren. “Obviously with Josh going down – and it’s not an excuse for our performance lately – it’s definitely something that has hurt us.

“We’re still struggling to replace him with some of our young guys who are a little inexperienced. They’re learning on the fly and they’re doing their best to learn – day to day – but it’s a challenge and something we’ve got to keep working on.”

And it goes well beyond the guards. Berggren was quick to point out, “It’s not just them. Everyone has had things that they can improve on. I’ve had plenty of things I can improve on myself. I’m a senior and I’d like to do a better job of leading this team with my experience and ability.”

There has been a lack of continuity due in part to a preseason injury to another senior, Mike Bruesewitz, who suffered a severe leg laceration in October sidelining him for a month.  Bruesewitz missed the Marquette game after a practice collision with a teammate left him with a concussion.

After Saturday’s loss, Berggren and Bruesewitz exchanged some ideas.

“We talked briefly about things we have to do to get this turned around,” said Berggren who was held to nine points (seven shots) at Marquette. “We talked about having to step up our leadership. Maybe it’s getting in guys faces. Maybe it’s pulling guys aside and talking to them about different things.

“There’s needed improvement from the first guy to the last guy on the bench. It’s a collective effort and we have to get things figured out and turned around before the Big Ten season. I don’t know that there’s pressure on us (the seniors). But from a leadership standpoint, we have to do a better job.”

UW coach Bo Ryan has never had a team finish lower than fourth in the Big Ten.

“I think we have to do a better job of listening to Coach Ryan and applying what he’s saying,” Berggren said. “There have been things that he has been harping on in practice, just the basic things that he always talks about: taking care of the ball, rebounding, and playing defense.

“We’ve just had too many breakdowns that are hurting us as a team.”

There have been stretches in two of their losses where the Badgers have gotten on a roll. Against Virginia, they had a 13-5 run and took a 36-31 lead.  But the Cavs countered. Against Marquette, they went on a 10-0 run to pull within three points, 41-38. But the Golden Eagles held them off.

“We have to learn to put our foot on the gas,” Berggren said, “and really keep it rolling when we get things rolling. Like I said before, we’re not that far off. There have been just a few things every game that have gotten away from us. Those are things we have to work on and be more consistent at.”

Berggren has been impressed by the progress of freshmen Sam Dekker and Zak Showalter. Both have been asked to grow up in a hurry. With Bruesewitz unavailable, Dekker got his first career start Saturday and led the Badgers in rebounding with eight. Showalter played 10 minutes off the bench.

“I love their energy and attitude,” Berggren said. “They come in and play hard. They make a few mistakes but they’re trying to be aggressive. They have the right attitude and they definitely have the ability. I like what they’ve done.”

Against Marquette, he also liked what he saw out of Zach Bohannon in limited exposure. “I thought Z-Bo did a good job,” Berggren said. “It’s encouraging to see the fight in our guys coming off the bench (in the second half) and giving us everything they’ve got to help the team.”

The Badgers failed to help themselves at Marquette by making just 9-of-23 free throws; 6-of-15 in the second half. Ryan Evans, who has been in a season-long slump from the line, was 1-of-9. No one saw this coming. In his three previous seasons (103 games), Ryan has shot 71 percent from the stripe.

“It’s just a mental thing and we’re trying to encourage Ryan,” said Berggren. “He has to clear his mind, be confident and knock them down. But, as a team, we didn’t shoot free throws very well. We missed some front ends of one-on-ones that really cost us. I know that I was one of them who did.”

Five years ago, Berggren redshirted as a true freshman out of Princeton, Minn. He remembers how the 2008-2009 Wisconsin team overcame a six-game losing streak in the Big Ten to finish tied for fourth in the conference. The Badgers then went on to win their opener in the NCAA tournament.

“We found a way to right the ship and figured things out,” said Berggren, adding the situation is not exactly comparable, nor as dire this season. “We definitely feel we can turn things around and still have a good season just like we did that year. It’s all about how you finish.”

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