Lucas at Large: 'Role players' play key role in win over Belmont

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There were any number of Vince Gill song titles that would put a suitable punctuation mark on Wisconsin's 72-58 win over the Country Music Hall of Famer's adopted college basketball team - the Belmont Bruins - here Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"I Still Believe in You.''

How many did after a couple of disappointing losses to Ohio State and Penn State?

"Tis the Season.''

What better time to show what you're made of than the postseason?

"Look at Us.''

The Badgers made 3-pointers and defended them.

"Pocket full of Gold.''

Role players executing their roles.

Where ya been Jared Berggren?

"Wondered the same thing myself sometimes,'' Berggren conceded.

Speaking for his teammates, he added, "When you see the ball go in, it feels good.''

In so many ways this was a feel-good story - starting with Berggren, a sophomore who had not made a 3-point basket since Dec. 23. He was 0-for-7 in Big Ten games. Against Belmont, he made the only two shots that he took from beyond the arc; an unexpected bonus.

Especially since Berggren was inserted into the game for defensive purposes in the first half.

"That was the plan for me to go in there and try to be physical with them,'' he said of the low-post tandem of Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders."Hitting some shots was just some gravy on top.''

Chided teammate Tim Jarmusz, "He's our back-up 5-man and our specialist from deep.''

Berggren helped set the tempo with his aggressiveness on defense. "You can't be passive,'' he said. "If I'm going to step in and get any (playing) time, I have to be aggressive. If I'm out there and I'm passive, I'm not going to make anything happen and I'm going right back to the bench.''

That's the reality for a role player, whether it's Berggren or Ryan Evans or Mike Bruesewitz.

"I know when I get my opportunities, I have to contribute,'' Berggren said.

When it was suggested to Jarmusz, a starter, that he might also qualify as a role player, he didn't hesitate to say, "Oh, definitely. I know Jon (Leuer) and Jordan (Taylor) handle most of the load and Keaton (Nankivil) does, too. But I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team win.''

Jarmusz, a senior, personified the UW's urgency. "I know the last two games we just came out kind of sloppy,'' he said. "I feel like that's partially my fault.

"I took it upon myself to say, 'This is it' and I did everything I could to be aggressive. You want to make sure you have no regrets in the end.''

Everyone got a lift from Mike Bruesewitz's inspired play. "He's a tough kid and a big game type of guy,'' said Keaton Nankivil. "The way he played was incredible.'' 

And timely.

"It's a clean slate,'' Nankivil continued. "We're going to try and take the momentum from this game and move forward.''

In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin advanced to the Sweet 16 by knocking off Kansas State, 72-55. Trevon Hughes had 25 points, Michael Flowers had 15 and Greg Stiemsma had 14 to go along with a solid defensive effort on All-American Michael Beasley.

Vince Gill sang about the "Next big thing.''

Saturday the Badgers will embrace it - drawing K-State once again.