By TOM LEA
MADISON – The magnitude of Wisconsin’s shooting struggles from inside its home arena isn’t felt until one sees what a hot-shooting Badgers squad is capable of doing to opposing teams.
Just ask Penn State, who’s head coach Patrick Chambers had a feeling the Badgers were going to break out of their recent slump against his squad.
“I was scared for many reasons,” said Chambers, just moments after UW beat his Penn State squad 65-55. “They just lost to Michigan State and they hadn’t been shooting well.
“That’s like the perfect storm about to hit you.”
The Badgers blitzed the Nittany Lions with seven 3-pointers in the first half of play. That 50 percent clip was the best UW had shot from distance in a given half since it hit 7-of-11 perimeter shots at Minnesota three games ago.
It was also the best shooting percentage in a given half at home since it shot 50 percent against Indiana back on January 26th.
Wisconsin went on to hit four of its eight shots from beyond the arc in the second half, which secured a cool 50 percent clip for the game. Jordan Taylor, UW’s unquestioned leader, hit 3-of-6 attempts and said after the fact that the early first-half run, spearheaded by a 15-4 run and three-consecutive Josh Gasser 3’s, was instrumental in Sunday’s win.
“It’s always nice when you see the ball go through the hoop,” he said. “It’s definitely important to get it going early. It helped us build our lead. No matter what happens we’re always staying aggressive and staying confident.
“We just keep plugging away.”
Four Wisconsin players hit at least one shot from downtown against Penn State. Three of those players (Taylor, Gasser and Jared Berggren) hit three 3-point shots. Collectively, UW’s 50 percent shooting effort from the perimeter was the best its shot since posting a 52.2 percent clip against Northwestern on January 18th.
“It kind of gets you into the flow of our offense a little bit better,” Gasser said. “You can kind of just execute that way. When shots are falling everything seems to be going a bit better. We just got better looks. We got out in transition a little bit and got easy looks.
“That’s always nice to get.”
Bruesewitz sets the tone:
As the only starter not to topple double-digit scoring, Wisconsin junior Mike Bruesewitz still factored heavily in UW’s 10-point win over Penn State. His career-high 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, helped the Badgers dominate the glass to the tune of 38-27. He didn’t really need to score much more than the seven points he chipped in Sunday afternoon.
“The hustle plays,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “Mike was into the game. He gave what he had. He’s a spark plug that way. He’s kind of like (Joe) Krabbenhoft that way. It’s always good to see him bring that energy because it is contagious.”
For the season Bruesewitz is averaging 6.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Only junior Ryan Evans is doing more on the glass for Wisconsin that Bruesewitz.
“It’s nothing different from him,” Taylor said. “It’s pretty consistent every night. He’s going to rebound and he’s going to find open guys and score when he needs to. He’s been a rock all year long.
“It’s not surprising.”
Abnormal substitution pattern:
Senior Rob Wilson entered Sunday’s game averaging just over nine minutes per contest. Though he logged 12 minutes, and wound up in Ryan’s rotation earlier than he usually does, he was still on the short end of some interesting substitution patterns.
There was one stretch when Ryan subbed freshman Traevon Jackson in for Wilson, only to send Wilson back in during the next dead ball. According to Ryan, he had a few things to say to his senior guard that couldn’t wait.
“There were a couple of things that our guys did uncharacteristically,” Ryan said. “Sometimes you just need to that, ‘Whoa, come over here a second.’ You don’t have time during the game to call a guy over all the time so a substitution is something. Then they can get back on the court.
“It’s not the end of the world and these guys can handle that.”