UW Health Sports Medicine 

Providing a spark: Evans key in Badgers' win

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After Ryan Evans stepped out of the UW locker room and volunteered an "I was due" sigh, he was greeted with a "Welcome back, Ryan" grin.

Evans returned the grin. "It feels amazing being able to get back out there," he said, "and stay consistent with what I do in helping my teammates."

Evans_Purdue.jpgHe added that his timely contributions in Tuesday's night win over Purdue were a product of his teammates "just believing in me" during the rough stretches this season.

"It feels really good to get back," Evans said.

The feeling was mutual for his teammates who have been waiting for Evans to be a factor in the rotation like he was during his redshirt freshman season.

"It was awesome," said Jordan Taylor. "I'm so excited for him. I hope he keeps it going. That's a big confidence booster. We've been talking about it all year how we've got weapons on our team that people don't know about yet."

Taylor confessed, "I don't even know what he was averaging."

Through 20 games overall, Evans was averaging 2.7 points per game.

Through eight Big Ten games, Evans was averaging 0.8 points per game.

Evans scored 10 against Purdue.

Was Evans pressing? "Oh yeah,'' he said. "You put so much work in, and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. But my teammates and the coaches have continued to believe in me, and I'm just fortunate for that.''

With the Boilermakers leading 49-43, Evans came through with his first meaningful play of the night - a dunk on an assist from Taylor. "Dunks always give me a spark," said Evans, a sophomore from Phoenix, Ariz.

On the UW's next offensive possession, Wquinton Smith got into a tug-of-war over the ball with Purdue's Lewis Jackson. Pound for pound, Smith is the strongest player on the UW roster, and he didn't flinch when D.J. Byrd pulled him off Jackson and Byrd and Smith got into a clinch that the refs had to break up.

It was also a meaningful moment for the Badgers in their rally. Especially after Smith later drew a charge on E'Twaun Moore. "When Q (Smith) got into that little tussle with Jackson that gave the whole team a spark," Evans said.

Taylor agreed. "Q got a little spark going," he said. "He came in and handled the ball and took the big charge. And anytime you can mix it up like that (with Jackson and Byrd) -- while staying smart and not costing the team - it got the crowd going and it got us a little amped up."

With 50 seconds left, Evans put the UW into the lead, 60-59, for good with a short jumper. "I saw JaJuan (Johnson) coming out and I know he has long arms," he said. "So I figured I'd give him a pump fake, go to the middle and pull up."

That's a shot that he made with more consistency last season. "I've made it in practice on and off this year," Evans said. "But in the games I haven't been consistent. I think it has to do with putting too much pressure on myself."

Observed Taylor, "He stepped up and made that big shot with confidence, If he keeps playing like that, which we know he can, it's going to be huge for us."

Evans wasn't done contributing. On Purdue's subsequent offensive possession, Johnson missed a jumper and Evans shielded the Boilers from collecting a loose ball which wound up in the hands of Jon Leuer, who was fouled.

"They always tell us to box out and get a body on somebody," Evans said. "Doing that allowed Jon to get the rebound; he's always active on the glass."

Evans still wasn't through. With the Badgers protecting a 63-59 lead, he got a tie-up with Moore which resulted in a Wisconsin possession.

All in all, everybody was happy to welcome Ryan Evans back.

"That's what coach (Bo Ryan) stresses all the time - come off the bench and add," Taylor said. "Ryan did that tonight. That's what he can bring to the team. And he can even bring more."

You could tell that Evans was excited to be back in the mix. "I'm just trying to be consistent and persistent," he said, "and hopefully I can build on it."

During his postgame interrogation, Purdue coach Matt Painter said, "I thought the difference tonight was Josh Gasser and Ryan Evans. Those two guys stepped up and that's what you need."

Gasser went 4-of-4 from the field, including 2-of-2 from beyond the 3-point arc, to finish with 11 points. Besides the spark that Gasser, Evans and Smith brought to the Badgers, there was an unexpected contributor, too.

"Biddy announcing that we're not going to have class tomorrow," a grinning Evans said of UW chancellor Biddy Martin, "also gave us a spark."

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