By TOM LEA
Wisconsin sophomore Ben Brust hadn’t been a popular media request in recent weeks. Not because he’s a bad interview or anything along those lines because he’s not. He’s a good, usually engaging interview.
He’s just been in a rut lately.
The shooting guard has hit just over 25 percent of his 3-point shots in UW’s past nine games and he’s seen his minutes dip from 25.8 per game during the first 22 games to 13.4 minutes over the last five.
But Tuesday’s media availability was different for Brust.
He was very popular, mostly because he and his UW teammates are gearing up for a tilt at Iowa, a school Brust originally committed to.
“I was caught in (Big Ten Network’s) The Journey wearing an Iowa sweatshirt,” Brust said. “It’s a little different when you go from one extreme to the next. Obviously I’m here and I’m just looking forward to playing.”
When Jason Bohannon, UW’s last contributor hailing from the state of Iowa, would play inside Carver Hawkeye Arena as a member of the Badgers he’d get booed relentlessly. The Hawkeyes student section made it clear they weren’t too happy with his decision to play for Bo Ryan and the Badgers, especially after his dad remains part of Iowa lore having quarterbacked the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl in the early 1980’s.
Brust hasn’t had that type of relationship when he returns to the school he once thought he’d play for. He’s been there once and he didn’t log any minutes.
Thursday night may be different.
“We’ll see,” said Brust, when asked if he expects any harassment from the student section. “I’m excited. Last year there wasn’t much, but this year could be different. We’ll see.”
Brust is no longer an unknown commodity on the Badger roster. He’s averaging 8.2 points per game, he’s hit 47 3-pointers (good for ninth amongst Big Ten players), he’s played in every game and he’s averaging 23.6 minutes per game.
He’s one of UW’s better shooters (40 percent from the field) and one of its outside weapons, though he’s been in a bit of a slump recently.
“He’s a great shooter,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. “You take a couple of games and sometimes they don’t fall, sometimes they do. He’s been shooting in practice and everything. He’s just got to transition over to the game.
“I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if he goes down to Iowa, knocks down a couple and gets on a roll.”
When Wisconsin lost to Iowa earlier this season, in somewhat shocking fashion nonetheless, Brust shot 1-of-9 from beyond the arc, a number well below his 37 percent season average from distance. He finished that game with 11 points, but it took 13 shots to get there.
Brust only made four of those.
“I didn’t make shots that I could have made or that I normally make,” Brust said. “I just try not to look at that and play within myself and play within what the team is doing.
“I’m ready to get out there.”
He might just be welcomed with the hostility that evaded him last time.