MADISON, Wis. - If any college basketball team deserved a little down time it was the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers, who last played on Dec. 14. The Badgers took a two week break after playing four games in 10 days, but several players said the break gave them a chance to recharge after their 12-0 run through non-conference play.
"It was much needed," junior guard Josh Gasser said after practice Thursday. "We'd been going pretty hard at it for a few months now, and just having games every couple of days could definitely take a [toll], physically and mentally. It was the perfect time for it, and I think we all took advantage of it."
The Badgers practiced a few times after their 86-61 win over Eastern Kentucky, but head coach Bo Ryan gave the players four complete days off over the last week so they could go home and spend time with their families at the end of the semester. The break within a break was perfectly timed for Gasser and sophomore forward Sam Dekker, who both said they used their time off to go home and focus on things other than basketball for once.
"You realize that your life's not all [about] basketball," Dekker said. "You can kick your feet up, relax, watch some basketball and football and be with family."
That said, Dekker and his teammates agreed that it was exciting to get back on the court after what seemed like such a long time away. The Badgers will cap off their non-conference season with a game against Prairie View A&M on Saturday at the Kohl Center, but they'll have to be careful to avoid overlooking the 2-9 Panthers.
After all, one more win would give the Badgers a perfect record heading in to Big Ten play- with Ohio State the only other undefeated Big Ten team so far. And while the Badgers know they still need to take care of business on Saturday, Gasser said he and his teammates are excited to see how they stack up compared to the rest of their conference.
"We get a game where we can kind of feel ourselves out again, but I'm ready for Big Ten season," Gasser said. "It's been a long non-conference season, we've taken care of business so far and I'm just excited to see what we can do in Big Ten play."
And while it's possible that the Badgers will be a little rusty against Prairie View A&M on Saturday after going two weeks without an actual game, Dekker said he doesn't think it'll take his teammates long to find the groove that launched them into the Top-6 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
"I think it's important to have this game and get some cobwebs out a little bit. Once you get back on the court everything is back to normal," Dekker said. "You've got that competitive juices flowing again. It won't take us long to get back in to a rhythm."
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