Nearly three years later, one game still comes to mind when Wisconsin fans think of the Cornell Big Red: a blowout in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.
The first and only previous meeting between the Badgers (1-1) and Big Red (1-1) came in a 87-69 Cornell victory, who shot better than 53 percent from three-point range and 61 percent from the floor in that game. Only three current Wisconsin players — Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz — appeared in the initial matchup.
But the Badgers will get a bleated shot at redemption at the Kohl Center Sunday.
“I remember they hit a lot of tough shots, they kind of unlocked the key to our defense and we played fairly solid defense, they just made crazy shots that game,” Evans said of the 2010 loss. “That’s just one of those games like Ohio State (in March 2011) when we went there two years ago, they hit (14 of 15) threes.”
The Badgers are still reeling after a 74-56 defeat to No. 10 Florida Wednesday night in Gainesville that saw uncharacteristic defensive lapses allowing the Gators to sink over 60 percent of their two-point tries. On the offensive end of the floor, Wisconsin failed to establish a presence inside the paint and settled for forced outside looks.
UW finished with at a 35.6 percent clip from the floor and went 7-of-24 from beyond the arc in a difficult early season test.
“I think we just got exposed on every facet of the game,” said freshman forward Sam Dekker, who co-led the Badgers with 11 points Wednesday. “Toughness defensively, offensively and there’s some things that we just got to shore up.”
Cornell may lack the national recognition of Florida, but the Ivy League opponent will test UW’s defense with plenty of three-point tries (39 attempts through two games). Led by senior forward Errick Peck with 13.5 points and five rebounds per game, Cornell has a new coach in Bill Courtney since the first time these two schools met but has kept a similar style of play.
Anchoring the Big Red’s backcourt is sophomore guard Gulal Cancer, who adds 11 points per game and has notched 11 assists through the first two games of the season.
“I know they’re good shooters, they run a lot of stuff similar to what we do,” Dekker said. “They run guys off screens, they do a lot of rubs and wheels, so it’s just about fighting around screens and communicating and running them off the three-point line because that’s where they’re going to beat us if they beat us.”
As the Badgers return to the friendly confines of the Kohl Center — where they have won 24 of their last 25 nonconference games — they realize they must find higher-percentage shots to earn their second win of the young season.
But in head coach Bo Ryan’s swing offense, fundamentally sound defense — something UW severely lacked against the Gators — is crucial. Evans said this relatively young lineup in which three freshmen — Sam Dekker, George Marshall and Traevon Jackson — see healthy time on the hardwood is still learning how to defend at the next level.
“We got to win playing as a team, we’re not an individualistic type team, we’re not the Miami Heat out here,” Evans said. “We’re a team that’s going to have to win by team defense.”
UW tips off with Cornell at 5 p.m. Sunday and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.com.