Lucas at Large: Bruesewitz, Badgers work from within to end skid

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Energy was the topic.

Mike Bruesewitz was the subject.

Greg Gard was the narrator.

"The one thing that we've noticed over the last two or three games is that Mike is starting to get back to being that Energizer Bunny,'' said Gard, Wisconsin's associate head coach.

"That's what made him who he was last season and what fans loved about him. If he's flying around and bringing energy and making things happen then the offense will flow from it.

"That was the whole point when we were recruiting him -- that's what we saw. He was everywhere on the court. He made things happen. He was skilled, rebounded and scored.

"He played with a lot of heart and energy. That has to be his game.''

Bruesewitz was on top of his game Thursday night at Purdue, helping trigger a 22-4 opening run against the Boilermakers by knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.

"We came out with a lot of energy,'' Jordan Taylor said.

"Mike hit some big shots,'' Ben Brust said.

In this context, Bruesewitz deserves some of the credit for setting the tempo in Wisconsin's 67-62 victory, which snapped Purdue's 26-game home winning streak, the sixth longest in the nation.

In his own mind, he was ready to pull the trigger.

"That was my mindset,'' said Bruesewitz after scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the beyond the 3-point arc. "If I got an open shot, I was going to shoot it with confidence and knock it down."

To such an extent that he even banked his second triple off the glass.

"I called it, too, look at the tape,'' said Bruesewitz, who had been shooting 33 percent from distance. "I didn't smirk or anything. As soon as it left my hand I knew it was going in.''

Mackey Arena, which opened during the 1967-68 season, has been a House of Pain for the Badgers, who had won there only twice previously (1972 and 2005).

Bringing the energy was a Bruesewitz priority.

"We needed to be excited to play and we needed to get off to a fast start,'' he said. "You have to bring your own energy on the road. It's you against the world.

"The way you get energy there is through silence -- silence is your motivation. You want to try to silence the crowd as much as possible and get the fans to sit on their hands.''

In addition to his 12 points -- the most that he has scored since Thanksgiving weekend when he had 13 against BYU -- Bruesewitz also had five timely defensive rebounds against the Boilers.

"He has become a more active rebounder lately,'' Gard said. "Whether or not he's getting the rebound, he's also keeping the ball alive so somebody else can secure it.''

Bruesewitz, who contributed defensively to Robbie Hummel's poor shooting night (13 points on 5-of-17 field goal attempts), put his own game plan for the Boilermakers into focus.

"We've got to climb back on the horse, get back after it and right the ship,'' he said.

If you're keeping score at home, that's three clichés in one sentence.

Invited to use whatever trite phrases or bromides were warranted, Bruesewitz grinned and confided that he was well-versed and stocked on clichés thanks to the movie, "Bull Durham.''

"That's where I got all my media training,'' he said.

With all due respect to Crash Davis, then, you could say Bruesewitz believes there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf, the designated hitter and losing streaks.

"I hate losing,'' he stressed on the heels of the UW's three-game losing skid.

That's understandable since Bruesewitz has had so little experience with it. The last time the Badgers were mired in a "significant'' losing streak, he was a senior at Sibley High in St. Paul, Minn.

("Significant'' translating to more than two in a row.)

That was during the 2008-09 season when the UW lost six straight Big Ten games. Despite the ignominious stretch, Wisconsin still made the NCAA tournament and won its first round game.

"Nobody had really experienced what we were going through,'' Bruesewitz said, "other than the seniors and the redshirt juniors. We lost one game at home my first two years here.''

After Michigan saddled the Badgers with their third consecutive defeat -- a streak including back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan State at the Kohl Center -- Bruesewitz took charge.

When the team got back from Ann Arbor early last Sunday evening, he suggested that everyone get together for a "bonding'' session and a "late night breakfast.'' So they huddled at Perkins Restaurant.

"We really didn't discuss basketball,'' Bruesewitz said. "Nobody gave any big speeches.''

The players just hung out together.

"We just wanted to change things up,'' he said. "It was a team event.''

It was important to point out that nobody had accepted losing. On the contrary, Bruesewitz said, "We were definitely disappointed'' with the 1-3 start in the Big Ten. That topic had been broached.

"We talked a lot about it in the locker room,'' Bruesewitz said. "We've got good leaders on this team. We don't have guys sitting there with their heads in their hands.''

Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves, he added. And there was an urgency to turn the season around, which the Badgers may have done with their rare victory in West Lafayette.

"Winning is a good deodorant,'' he said. "Trust me, it's a good deodorant for a lot of things.''

Prodded to critique his own play, Bruesewitz said, "I think I've underachieved. I feel like I should be more consistent offensively. But I'm not trying to force shots, I'm not trying to do too much.''

This is where he reached for the "quicksand'' cliché.

"The harder you try, the more you bury yourself,'' he explained. "I'm trying to let things come to me. I've been working on my jump shot and finishing around the rim.

"Luckily there's more than just shooting and scoring in the game of basketball. I feel like I've done a good job rebounding, and I've tried to bring as much energy as possible to the team defensively.''

Bruesewitz admitted that he tends to be tougher on himself than others.

"You know the cliché, it's the old lawyer's model,'' he said. "If you get everything you asked for, you didn't ask for enough. I kind of ask a lot out of myself and I haven't quite gotten there yet.''

But he's working on it. So are his UW teammates. "Everybody in our locker room,'' he said, "feels like we're a better team than we've shown most of the year.''

And they went out and proved it Thursday at Mackey Arena.

ON WISCONSIN