MADISON, Wis. - It took Ben Brust a while to warm up, but the wait paid off for No. 14 Wisconsin. The Badgers came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat the Indiana Hoosiers 69-58 Tuesday night in the Kohl Center, and they couldn't have done it without Brust's trademark 3-point shooting.
After missing all five of his first half shots Brust finished the game with 12 second half points points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor. He made 3-of-5 3-point shots in the second half on the night where he eclipsed 1,000 career points for the Badgers, and said it was a relief to break out of a 6-for-29 shooting slump that stretched back to Wisconsin's 60-58 win over Michigan State on Feb. 9.
"I knew it was only a matter of time," Brust said after he missed four 3-pointers in the first half. "I knew it was going to start so I was kind of like 'Can it start now?'
"Looking at 3 for 10 I know I can do better than that. But it was definitely good to get a couple to go down, and I think … it just kind of trickled down to everyone else. It just kind of got us going and opened things up."
Brust's shooting capped off a major turnaround for the Badgers, who shot just 25.9 percent from the floor in the first half- and made just one of 10 shots from deep. They also struggled to get anything inside against Indiana's standout freshman Noah Vonleh, who held Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky to just four points in the paint in the first half.
But the Badgers flipped the script after halftime and attacked the basket on their next few possessions. They jumped out on a 12-4 run and re-took the lead for good just under seven minutes into the second half. The Hoosiers kept it close for another few minutes, but the Badgers opened up a double-digit lead with five minutes left in the game as their 3-pointers continued to fall. Sam Dekker said that goes back to the team trusting in Brust to break out of his funk, even after he got off to another rough start.
"If you look at how a lot of our runs have started this year it kind of starts with a Ben Brust 3-pointer or one of his little turn-arounds in the paint," Dekker said. "We still see Ben as our best shooter on the team. I think he's up there as one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation. He can spark an offense at any time."
As a team the Badgers (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) made 6-of-11 3-point shots after halftime, and they held Indiana (15-12, 5-9) to just 42.8 percent shooting from the floor after the break. The Hoosiers shot just 16 for 39 inside the arc in the game. They finished with just 22 points in the paint after putting up 52 points in the paint against the Badgers last month, and Dekker gave credit to the Wisconsin coaching staff for helping them fix the defensive lapses that bogged them down during a stretch where they lost five of six conference games.
"I just think we've been more solid and disciplined," Dekker said. "It's a credit to the coaches for staying on us about how we can be good in there if we stay to our rules."
In all the Badgers scored 50 points in the second half- the fifth time this season that they have scored 50 points or more in a half. Dekker led the Badgers with 16 points, and all four of Wisconsin's other starters finished in double figures.
The win puts the Badgers a game and a half out of first place in the Big Ten with three games left in the regular season. They are also a game and a half up on Iowa and Nebraska, who are tied for fifth place in the conference and are currently in-line to miss a bye and play an extra game in the Big Ten tournament.
With a win over Indiana the Badgers have now beaten the three teams that handed them their first three losses of the season, and have built up a six-game winning streak that they will look to carry over into March and the madness that comes with it.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.