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January 26, 2012

Gritty team effort propels UW

MADISON - As Mike Bruesewitz voraciously bellowed with emphatic pride, his teammate Ryan Evans calmly paced toward the Kohl Center free throw line.

The sold out arena quietly, albeit momentarily, flipped the same electricity switch that was in full force throughout the second half, in a downward motion. Two made free throws and just over two seconds later, the No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers claimed a 57-50 victory over an Indiana squad spiraling toward the bottom of the Big Ten standings with its fourth loss in five tries.

"This team has a lot of fight in it," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "I just like the grit in this group."

If you were to look up the definition of a gritty win you'd likely see a snapshot of Josh Gasser attacking the much-hyped Cody Zeller baseline, immediately following a shot attempt that Zeller easily and impressively redirected.

He made the physical layup and the foul shot.

Right next to that you'd see a Mike Bruesewitz dime, right on the money to a cutting Ben Brust or Gasser, completing his two assists on the night.

Turn the page and you'd see one of Jared Berggren's career-high five blocks, one of Brust's three 3-pointers, one of Evans' nine rebounds or one of Jordan Taylor's five made buckets.

Four Badgers finished with double figures. Five Badgers logged at least one assist. Two Badgers recorded a steal.

And one happy head coach's team beat an old rival in Tom Crean, who declined to show up to his post game press conference, for the seventh-consecutive time since he's taken over at Indiana.

"Read the press notes," Crean said. "It's right there on the front page. They're a great defensive team. We got good shots. We just didn't get a couple of rebounds at the end."

Wisconsin, a team that has lost an almost-unheard of three games inside its venerable facility, looked stale offensively at times. It shot a relatively meager 39.6 percent from the field - - and an even worse 23.5 percent from distance - - but it never lost its confidence.

Indiana held a lead at the half and with less than six minutes to play. It held UW's All-American point guard Taylor to just 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting and suffocated him down the stretch to the point that the senior only attempted one shot during the final 13-plus minutes of the game.

Verdell Jones scored 12 points for the Hoosiers - - he averaged seven entering the game - - and his team shot 45.7 percent from the field throughout.

But it came in a losing effort.

"We put ourselves in position to win," Crean said. "We just didn't finish it off."

It wasn't the most impressive win Wisconsin has mustered inside the Kohl Center, but its impact is and will continue to be felt. UW remains in the thick of a wide-open Big Ten race, improving to 6-3 in league play. That's following a 1-3 start nonetheless.

"We pretty much just had to keep fighting," Berggren, who scored just four points, but swatted five shots and limited Zeller to just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting, said. "It wasn't going to be easy. We had to scrap to the very end. You've always got to keep the confidence and know that things are going to turn around and keep battling defensively, too."

Like Bo Ryan said, his team fought to the bitter end.

Leading by one with less than two minutes to play, Brust fired a three when his defender slipped under a screen. Though he had hit 3-of-4 prior to that shot and seemingly approached it with all the confidence needed in a shooter, the ball found a way to menacingly rim out.

Evans, who looked somewhat shaky at times during his 30 minutes of play, battled hard for the loose ball, eventually sliding his hand over the orange sphere before spiking it into the hardwood.

Brust, 'Johnny-on-the-spot,' corralled the loose ball over Christian Watford and extended the Badger possession.

"When a game is that tight and that competitive between two teams," Crean said. "It comes down to just a couple of things. Their offensive rebounds were those things."

The sophomore shooter wound up missing yet another 3-point shot, but Evans outfought two Hoosier defenders for another loose ball. The junior was then fouled and tacked on two free throws, giving his squad a three-point lead with just over a minute to play.

Following a missed Zeller jumper with 51 seconds to play and his squad still trailing by three, Taylor thwarted any Indiana second-chance opportunity with his fifth rebound of the night.

With Crean vehemently cheering his team from the opposing coaches' box, Taylor pulled from 23 feet at the top of the key. The shot rattled off the rim, and once again, UW was in position for a key offensive rebound.

This time it went to Bruesewitz. This time it concluded UW's eight offensive rebound effort.

And that time it allowed the junior spark plug to slide the dagger directly into the midsection of Indiana.

"Mike is a pit bull," Taylor said. "He's always around the ball and sticking his face in there. He's just relentless. It's fun to play with him."

Bruesewitz, who hit all four of his free throw attempts, would probably say the same thing about Taylor. Evans, who hit all eight of his free throw attempts would probably say the same thing about Brust.

Brust, who connected on both of his free throw attempts, would probably say the same thing about the next guy.

It can go on and on. That's Bo Ryan's victory recipe. As he always says, the team is bigger than any one individual.

"We were able to hold Indiana on a bad shooting night and find other ways to win the game," Evans said. "That's really a momentum builder and that's why we've been successful."

The following are post game audio files from Thursday night:
Bo Ryan, post Indiana
Players, post Indiana


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