BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
MADISON, Wis. — There were no known representatives from Major League Eating or the International Federation of Competitive Eating on the premises of the restaurant, a popular hang-out in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, a three-minute walk from the team hotel. But an "eating" record was set Monday night.
For the first time in at least two decades, maybe longer, maybe dating well back into the Dick Bennett era of Wisconsin basketball, the UW players and coaches ate together the night before a road game at a local dining establishment rather than the customary team meal at the hotel. For the record, the Badgers are now 1-0 when doing so under head coach Greg Gard.
"It must have been the trick," Nigel Hayes rationalized, "because I had never won in Indiana."
The fact that Wisconsin extended its winning streak to nine straight games Tuesday night with a 75-68 win over the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall left Indiana coach Tom Crean with a bad case of indigestion. He has not only lost three in a row this season, but 14 out of the last 16 to the Badgers. How long has Gard been cooking this up? Eating together as a team, that is.
"I looked at doing it last year," said Gard, who took over as the interim head coach in mid-December after Bo Ryan's retirement. "But everything was set in place before the season. There was no flexibility, no options. Everything was booked and reserved and the meals were contracted."
But he kept the idea on the front burner. "I just thought it would be a good learning experience for the players in terms of a different etiquette, a restaurant etiquette," said Gard, who had another motive in mind, too, a more appetizing and lasting one. "Team building."
Before the players departed for the restaurant, they had to place their cell phones in a bucket.
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