No matter how hard the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team scrubbed Sunday night at the Kohl Center, nothing was going to clean the stain it left two days earlier.
But the No. 17 Badgers did a good job of ignoring the mess they made on their resume and quickly moving on to the next item on their to-do list.
The result was a 92-65 victory over Siena for UW, which got a career-high 23 points from junior point guard Bronson Koenig.
Junior forward Vitto Brown added a career-high 16 points as the Badgers (1-1) bounced back from a stunning 69-67 loss to Western Illinois on Friday night.
Thanks to a busy early-season schedule, UW didn’t have much time to dwell on the program’s first season-opening loss in 14 years.
“One of the first thoughts that went through my head after that game was, ‘Thank God we’ve got another game in two days to prove ourselves,” UW junior guard Zak Showalter said. “Obviously, that was pretty embarrassing. But we know what we’ve got and what we’re capable of. I think we responded pretty well.”
The Badgers, who struggled offensively in the second half vs. Western Illinois, shot 58.5 percent from the field and went 25 of 30 from the free throw line against the Saints (0-2).
UW used a 15-0 run that stretched over both halves to turn the game into a rout.
Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, whose team opened the season with a 92-74 loss at Duke on Friday night, said he “sensed trouble brewing” once he heard the Badgers had been upset in their opener.
“Trying to convince 18- to- 22-year-olds that the team that lost to Western Illinois wasn’t going to show up tonight, I did a poor job of that,” Patsos said. “I made a fatal mistake — I trusted the players.”
Patsos wanted his team to push the ball up the court against the Badgers. But that plan never really materialized because Siena kept committing fouls — 23 overall, including 14 in the first half — which allowed UW to set its defense.
“When we don’t run, we’re not so good and that really hurt us,” said Patsos, whose team got 21 points off the bench from freshman guard Nico Clareth and 17 from junior point guard Marquis Wright.
“Because that tempo, you look up tempo in the dictionary, you see Bo Ryan’s picture. And that starts playing right into their hands.”
UW showed improvement on the defensive end after struggling in the opener. Still, Siena finished with 34 points in the paint after UW allowed 30 in that area to Western Illinois.
“Our coaches do a great job of breaking down the film and showing us what we needed to work on,” Koenig said. “I thought we had a great day of practice on the defensive end (on Saturday). … I thought we did a better job today, because you couldn’t really get much worse than Friday. We’ve still got a long ways to go, though.”
One encouraging sign for UW was that its offense didn’t sputter despite a significant stretch without junior forward Nigel Hayes on the floor.
Hayes finished with 14 points despite sitting out the final 14 minutes, 24 seconds of the first half. UW led 11-9 when Clareth finished a three-point play after Hayes’ foul, but that lead ballooned to 15 points by halftime.
Koenig and Brown combined for 23 points in the first half, while Siena cooled off. After making seven of its first 11 shots to take a 16-15 lead, the Saints went 4 of 17 the rest of the half.
“We weren’t put into a position where we had to do anything drastic with the guys that had a couple fouls, fortunately, because the other guys were taking care of business,” said Ryan, referring to the foul trouble that plagued Hayes and redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ. “That’s why it’s a team.”
A young team that likely will experience more highs and lows as the season progresses.
“We’re going to have some nights where we’re going to look pretty doggone good,” Ryan said. “And we’re going to have some nights where it might be, ‘Are those guys impersonating Wisconsin basketball players?’ ”