MADISON, Wis. - Mired in the midst of a 6-for-23 shooting slump from behind the arc, senior guard Ben Brust started to warm up on the court after missing all four of his 3-point shots in the first half. His slump stretched back to Wisconsin's 60-58 win over Michigan State, and Brust was in need of a confidence boost as the Badgers prepared to take on the Indiana Hoosiers and a 10-point deficit in the second half.
But Brust stated to heat up in the second half, making 3-of-5 3-pointers after the break. His shooting propelled the Badgers to a 69-58 win- their sixth in a row after losing five of six games between January and February. And while Brust gets the credit for taking and making those shots, he also spread the credit around- especially to fellow senior Zach Bohannon.
"[Bohannon] came up to me while we were shooting after halftime and he said 'Just shoot,'" Brust said Friday after practice. "Whether the advice was good or bad or whatever, he took the time to come up to me and be a good teammate and show some confidence in me … and I think it might have worked."
It is not the first time Bohannon has sought out other teammates to provide some advice or let them vent some of their own frustrations. Bohannon, a 6-foot-6 forward who started his career at Air Force, said he's happy to play that role for the Badgers, especially since he has only played in 10 games this season.
"At the beginning of the season I told myself 'No matter what role the team needs me to play I'll do it to the best of my ability," Bohannon said. "Obviously I would have liked to play a little more on the court but that role just didn't happen because of how well our team was playing early on."
So when the team started struggling after opening the season 16-0, Bohannon had to find other ways to help get the Badgers back on track if making big plays on the court in crunch time wasn't an option.
"It's one of those things where when we started struggling I was like, 'Ok, how can I help the team?" Bohannon said. "How can I help (Sam Dekker)? How can I help Ben get through his shooting slump? How can I help some of these other players like Nigel Hayes and even Vitto Brown who haven't seen a whole lot of playing time?"
"I hope I can bring my unique perspective to some of the younger guys and say 'It's going to be ok. I know it sucks right now, but you've just got to take a deep breath and get through the day and get better.'"
That's an attitude that Brust said would help Bohannon become successful in whatever he chooses to do after basketball. As of right now Bohannon said his plan is to stay enrolled as a graduate student at Wisconsin for another year so he can finish his M.B.A., and said that while he loves playing for the Badgers it will be nice to have a regular schedule for once.
"I'm excited to be … just a normal student," Bohannon said. "Coming back next year and not having to worry about that 'student and athlete'- just actually being a student and enjoying the experience of studying on a daily basis and not just being so worn down."
But if Bohannon has his way it is unlikely that his life will remain stress-free for very long.
"After [school] I'm hoping to go to Wall Street and get some experience in the financial system," Bohannon said. "I'm kinda open to anything, but hopefully [I'll work for] a big bank. They don't get the best raps right now but it's one of those things where I want to be competing against the best- that's why I transferred to Wisconsin to begin with."
But Brust would be surprised if Bohannon stops there.
"Well he's got it all planned out somewhere, but in my best guess he'll finish his M.B.A. and then go do some business stuff, and then he's going to get his foot in the door in politics and he's going to be a governor and then he's going to try and be president," Brust said of Bohannon, a not-so-secret political junkie. "You know what? I wouldn't be surprised if he made it far somewhere down the road because he's driven and he knows what he's talking about and he's passionate … he's got my vote."
And no matter what Bohannon does after his basketball playing days are done, the soon-to-be former student-athlete said he hopes the program remembers him as someone who left things better than how they were when he arrived- even if it was just offering a few words of encouragement to a struggling teammate.
"I hope wherever I go [that] whoever knew me and knew what I was about can say that I made a difference and I left everything that I touched better than what it came in as," Bohannon said. "That's one of those things that has kind of been a life motto. Leaving everything better than before."
In light of Brust's second-half turnaround against the Hoosiers, it is safe to say the rest of the team would agree.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.