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March 2, 2012MADISON -- If ever the Badgers could get everyone on the team shooting well at the same time, they would be nearly impossible to beat. Especially if those shots came from outside.
As it stands, the closest Wisconsin has come to getting all its shooters on the same page in Big Ten play is a trio of games in which it reached double digits in 3-pointers made. In those three games at Nebraska and at home versus Northwestern and Penn State, the Badgers shot a combined 34-for-66 (51.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin's best shooting night of this season actually was its first game of the year, all the way back on Nov. 12 against Kennesaw State. The Badgers hit 15 of their 25 attempts that night from 3-point range, while shooting 58.8 percent overall from the field.
More often than not, however, UW has seen one or more of its players in a shooting slump while the others carry the load for that particular game or stretch of games.
"Well, this isn't the first time," head coach Bo Ryan said about streaky shooting. "When I coached in high school, I can remember talking about teams and the scouting report like, 'Man, this team's really been shooting the ball well. These two or three guys have really found their groove.
"It's been around since basketball was invented. Because it's like anything else, it involves an eye-hand coordinated event. You know, there's the rim, here's the ball, I've got to put this in there."
For a while, two of the Badgers' best 3-point shooters -- Josh Gasser and Ben Brust -- really struggled to put the ball through the hoop from beyond the arc. Over a four-game stretch starting Jan. 31 at Penn State through the Feb. 16 game at Michigan State, the two UW guards combined to shoot just 3-for-22 (13.6 percent) from 3-point range.
Gasser scored 21 points over those four games, while Brust -- who typically does a much higher percentage of his damage beyond the arc -- managed just three points while being held scoreless in three of the four games.
Over the next two games, though, Gasser and Brust appeared to have rediscovered their respective shots, combining to score 45 points while shooting 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) from outside.
Wisconsin went 1-1 in those two games against Penn State and Iowa. And the Badgers certainly shot it well enough to win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. When the team's best shooters are hitting their shots, UW is tough to beat.
"It means a lot," Ryan Evans said of Gasser and Brust contributing more offensively in those two games. "Not only Josh and Ben, but Rob [Wilson], too. It means a lot, and that's something we're definitely going to need down the stretch here going to tournament time.
"We can definitely be a real effective team if everybody is running on all cylinders."
On the flip side, Mike Bruesewitz has been struggling with his outside shooting for about six weeks. Over the last 11 games dating back to Jan. 15 versus Nebraska, Bruesewitz has made just 5-of-34 (14.7 percent) attempts from 3-point range.
Beginning with that 0-for-3 night against the Cornhuskers, the best shooting performance Bruesewitz has had from beyond the arc was a 1-for-2 night at Illinois. Bruesewitz has made a 3-pointer in just four of the last 11 games, while attempting at least one in each contest.
Over the last five games, Bruesewitz has gone 0-for-10 from outside. Including misses on his last five attempts at Minnesota, that makes for 15 straight missed threes by Bruesewitz.
The good news for the Badgers is that Bruesewitz has the right type of mentality to fight through such a prolonged shooting slump. Whereas it may have been necessary for a veteran like Jordan Taylor to remind a guy like Brust to keep shooting because evertually the shots will fall, Taylor doesn't see a similar message to be necessary for Bruesewitz.
"He knows that," Taylor said. "And Ben does too. But Mike's just one of those guys you don't really have to say much. He knows; he's not going to back down or shy away. He does so many other things too that if his shot's [not falling], I don't think he's going to think about it too much.
"Mike is like a pitbull. He just never stops ... Mike's going to scrap and do what he needs to, or do whatever he has to do to help the team win. Regardless of how he's shooting or things like that."
Fortunately for Wisconsin, Bruesewitz's struggles appear to be limited to his outside shooting. Bruesewitz still has managed to score 67 points over those 11 games, which at 6.1 points per game is actually 0.1 more than his season average.
He also has grabbed 69 rebounds over the same stretch, increasing his per game average for the year from 5.1 to 5.3 boards. Bruesewitz also has posted a solid 23 assists against 12 turnovers during the 11 game stretch.
In short, the shooting woes have not affected any other aspect of Bruesewitz's game.
"Eventually the ship will get righted and I'll figure things out. Something will fall," Bruesewitz said. "Offensively if stuff isn't going right for you, there's a lot of other part of the game where you can add to the team and help the team win.
"That's kind of been my motto every since I've been here. There's always something that can be done to help the team win. And if it's not shooting the ball well, then it's going and getting 15 rebounds, going and making sure a guy doesn't get a post touch. Stuff like that."