At some point this season, Wisconsin knew it was probably going to receive a wake-up call. Just maybe not this early.
After being stunned in their opener, the No. 17 Badgers try to avoid starting 0-2 for the first time in 20 years Sunday night against visiting Siena.
With a roster that returns 38 percent of the minutes played from last season's national runner-up, coach Bo Ryan and his players didn't expect things to be easy, especially early. Following Friday's 69-67 home loss to Western Illinois, Wisconsin is forced to expedite the learning curve.
"We got it out of the way sooner rather than later, so hopefully we can learn from this and continue to grow," forward Vitto Brown said.
Wisconsin last dropped its first two games in 1995-96. It hasn't lost consecutive nonconference home games since 1990-91 and last opened with two straight defeats at home in 1959-60.
"I never want to say I'm glad we lost or it's a good thing we lost, but the fact that it happened allows you to see things better," forward Nigel Hayes said.
The Badgers need to see improvement on both ends.
They shot 35.5 percent and allowed a Leathernecks team that went 8-20 last season - but returned its top three scorers - to make 54.0 percent. WIU went 7 of 9 from 3-point range and received two big free throws from guard Garret Covington with 10.2 seconds left.
"I think we're just going to have to listen to our coaching staff, because obviously they've had success in the past," Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig said. "We just need to buy into their system a little more, be more attentive in practice."
Hayes and Koenig, key contributors last season, each had 17 points but the 6-foot-8 Hayes went 4 of 13 from the field and didn't score in the second half. A solid reserve last season, Brown had 11 points but no other Badger scored more than eight.
"It's hard to get a read when you've got a lot of guys that haven't played that much," Ryan said. "But now you guys know why I say all the things I was saying earlier about 'some days we've got a long way to go.' I think you see now.
"We play again Sunday, we play again Tuesday, and we'll see what we can find."
This will be Wisconsin's first meeting with Siena, which after Friday's 92-74 loss to fifth-ranked Duke will be the first team since 1985 to open against both teams that played in the previous season's national championship game.
Though the Saints have never defeated a Top 25 opponent on the road since moving to Division I in 1976, coach Jimmy Patsos returns three of his top four scorers from an 11-20 team. Each had a solid night Friday with guard Marquis Wright scoring 20 and going 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, while Javion Ogunyemi and Lavon Long each had 15.
"I think we have really nice pieces," Patsos said. "I think we have a really good five or six guys. Our young guys are going to learn. I don't want to be too happy losing by 18, but there was no yelling (in the locker room after the game)."