December 21, 2014

The last time California had this strong of a start, it reached the national championship game.

That was 55 years ago, so the better measuring stick for how they might match up against the nation's elite could come Monday night when No. 5 Wisconsin comes to Berkeley.

The Golden Bears (10-1) are off to their best start since 1959-60 when they won 28 of their first 29. They've won each of their seven home games and have a seven-game overall winning streak, which matches their best since taking nine straight from Dec. 10, 2008-Jan. 10, 2009.

The promising start has upped program expectations in the first year under coach Cuonzo Martin.

"This all started when coach Martin got hired and we got to work," guard Sam Singer said. "We knew we had a chance to be good. We got a big one coming up on Monday and we'd love to get to 11."

The Badgers (10-1) have matched that start, though it has more of a business-as-usual feel after a 2013-14 season in which they opened 16-0 and went on to a Final Four appearance.

Cal figures to provide Wisconsin with its toughest road test yet since it hasn't played a true road game out of the state of Wisconsin. Its previous two came at Marquette and Milwaukee.

"To play a true road game in a hostile environment is definitely going to test where we are and I'm excited for it," Badgers guard Josh Gasser told the school's official website. "Instead of having 18,000 people on your side, you have zero."

The Bears' latest triumph was Friday's 78-67 home victory over an Eastern Washington team that entered with single-digits losses to the two ranked teams it had faced. Cal didn't find things much easier, but point guard Tyrone Wallace remained hot with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Forward Christian Behrens added a career-high 20 points and is averaging 14.7 over three games after managing one previous double-digit scoring effort in his first 48 career games.

"He's a guy that continues to get better," Martin said. "He's just playing with a lot of energy."

But it's Wallace the Badgers are most concerned with. The 6-foot-5 junior is averaging 21.3 points and 9.7 rebounds over the winning streak while shooting 53.8 percent and 54.5 percent from 3-point range.

"He's definitely a matchup nightmare," Gasser said. "He does everything for them; he has the ball in his hands a lot and he's creating; he'll challenge us."

Wisconsin has presented opponents with plenty of challenges of its own. In three straight wins since allowing Duke to shoot 65.2 percent in a 80-70 home loss on Dec. 3, the Badgers have held opponents to 45.0 points on 32.9 percent.

An 86-43 home win over Nicholls on Dec. 13 marked the fifth game this season an opponent has failed to score 50 points. Sam Dekker scored 17 points for a second straight game, while fellow forward Nigel Hayes was 5 of 5 from the floor and is averaging 12.5 points on 84.6 percent over two games.

The Bears are 1-1 against ranked opponents with a neutral-site win over Syracuse and a neutral-site loss to Texas.

Cal owns a 5-3 edge in the series, but Wisconsin has won the last two with the latest meeting ending 81-56 on Dec. 2, 2012, in Madison.

The last two top-10 teams to visit Berkeley, though, have lost, including then-No. 1 Arizona on Feb. 1.

"They're a different team now," Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close said. "In terms of what they do and how they play."

Cal remains without guard Jabari Bird, the team's third-leading scorer (11.7 points per game), who has missed five consecutive games with a foot injury.

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