By Mike Lucas on February 24, 2012 5:22 PM
Wisconsin freshman Jarrod Uthoff got a sneak preview Thursday night of the type of reception that he will likely receive in the near future at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
The noisy crowd (14,248) - which was bolstered by a special promotion (free admission to students) - serenaded UW guard Ben Brust with boos every time he touched the basketball.
Brust had originally signed a national letter of intent to attend Iowa. But the Big Ten granted him a release after the Hawkeyes fired Todd Lickliter - the coach to whom Brust had committed.
The circumstances are different for Uthoff, the reigning Mr. Basketball in Iowa. As a senior, Uthoff led the state in scoring as he averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds for Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
Uthoff had a sizeable contingent of family and friends at Thursday's game even though he never got off the bench for the Badgers. The 18-year-old Uthoff is redshirting this season.
"We think he's got a bright future and this has been a good year for Jarrod to improve and bang in practice against the guys that are ahead of him," said UW assistant coach Gary Close.
"He's added strength, which was a big reason why he redshirted in the first place."
The 6-foot-8 Uthoff has added 18 pounds and increased his weight to 210.
"We're putting money in the bank," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard, "and if you can leave it in there a little longer you're going to get a higher interest rate for that fifth year."
"Redshirting is never a mistake; it's very rare when you don't have a better fifth year than your first year," added Close. "Jarrod's game is coming around; you can see it every day in practice."
Working on the scout team against the starters, Uthoff has shown some offensive skills.
"He's pretty athletic and long," Close said. "He can shoot the 3 and score around the basket. If he can add some strength and different parts to his game, he has a chance to be a good player."
As redshirts, Uthoff and freshman point guard George Marshall have been able to go to school on what it takes to deliver a consistent performance level every day in practice.
"Along with the strength issues, that's the one thing freshmen have to comprehend and figure out," Gard said. "That's playing hard on every possession - every possession every day matters."
Among the Cedar Rapids metro high school programs, Uthoff is the first senior to be honored as Mr. Basketball in Iowa since 2006 when Linn-Mar's Jason Bohannon was so recognized.
Bohannon scored over 1,000 career points and played in the second most games (135) in school history during his four years at Wisconsin. Bohannon, like Brust, was booed at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
That same fate likely awaits Bohannon's younger brother, Zach Bohannon, who's sitting out the mandatory redshirt year after transferring from the Air Force Academy.
The 6-6, 210-pound Bohannon has two years of eligibility remaining.
"He's a smart and experienced player," Close said of ZBo. "Here's a guy who has played a lot of basketball at a high Division-1 level (Bohannon appeared in 39 games during his two years at Air Force).
"He can knock down shots - as all the Bohannon's can. He'll bang a little bit. He can pick-and-pop. He's a good passer and pretty versatile around the basket with his right or left hand."
Bohannon joined the UW program late last summer.
"One thing that will benefit him," Gard said, "is that he will have the spring and eight weeks in June and July to develop from a physical standpoint and reconfigure his body a little bit more."
That window, Gard pointed out, will also be valuable to incoming freshman Sam Dekker.
"He's physically starting to fill out and he already understands the importance of the weight room," Gard said. "He's not naïve or blinded by anything. He understands that he has to get stronger."
Last Tuesday night, Dekker scored 58 points in Sheboygan Lutheran's 80-73 win over Random Lake. He was 14-of-14 inside the arc, 5-of-10 on 3-pointers and 15-of-17 from the free throw line.
Dekker also had eight rebounds, five blocked shots and zero turnovers.
"A lot of guys can't get 58 points in a lay-up line much less in a basketball game," Close observed. "That's impressive and I don't care who you're playing against."
After watching Dekker play earlier this season, Close said, "He's a very versatile player in terms of being able to score in a lot of different ways. He's athletic, he plays hard and he's been well-coached.
"The fans here are going to love him."
Gard agreed about the dimension that Dekker can bring to the offense.
"He's a variety scorer," Gard said. "He can post. He'll rebound and go rim-to-rim with the ball. He's got great vision and he sees the whole floor. Plus, he's very unselfish."
What about transitioning from Sheboygan Lutheran's suspect competitive level to the Big Ten? Gard cited the experience Dekker has gained from playing against the best of the best in AAU basketball.
"He can more than hold his own," Gard said.
That's very true despite Dekker falling short of being named a McDonald's All-American.
"Maybe that's a benefit," Close said. "It's probably not fair because he certainly deserved it. But it's a chip that he can put on his shoulder as far as, 'Hey, I'm going to prove those people wrong.'
"Sam is that type of kid; he's very competitive. I think maybe in the long run it will help."
While it is unlikely anyone associated with the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team will say it out loud, the Badgers appear to be in pretty decent shape for a 14th-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
Only Kansas, Duke and Michigan State have longer streaks. Meanwhile Texas, which like the Badgers has gone dancing for the last 13 years, would seem to have some work to do.
To be sure, the Longhorns could still make it, but they begin the week with a 7-8 conference record, and a ratings percentage index (RPI) of 59, according to CollegeRPI.com.
A couple of other traditional powers will need to win their conference tournaments to make the field. Pittsburgh is last in the Big East with a 4-11 record, while its RPI is 93. UCLA is 8-6 in the Pac-12, but has an RPI of 136.
In other words, dropping games to the Panthers and the Bruins, especially the latter, would be considered a bad loss. Imagine that.
The RPI is just one of several tools for the NCAA tournament selection committee, but clearly those numbers help demonstrate that Texas, Pitt and UCLA have had their struggles.
Meanwhile, the Badgers simply continue to win. On Sunday, Bo Ryan's bunch won its 20th game of year. That is six straight seasons of at least 20 victories, and the ninth in 11 years under Ryan. In the history of the program, the UW has 13 such seasons.
Perhaps even more telling is the fact that the Badgers can still finish in the top four of the Big Ten standings.
They would like to believe they can end up even higher, but for now, Wisconsin is a game-and-a-half ahead of fifth-place Indiana. If the Badgers hold on to that position, it would be the 11th-straight season of a fourth-place or better finish in the league.
Now that is impressive.
Perhaps even more so this season. Yes, this team really struggles to score, but far more often than not, they defend. They protect the basketball. And they make free throws, especially late in games.
To this point of the season, that combination has helped the Badgers to the Big Ten's best road record.
With trips coming up to Iowa City and Columbus, that combo needs to be in play again.
Much has been made of Wisconsin's home record under Ryan, and much has been made of the Badgers' four Kohl Center losses this season. Understandable, but what many folks have missed is the success away from home.
Since Ryan became the head coach in Madison, no team in the Big Ten has been better outside of its own gym than the Badgers.
During that period, Wisconsin's 47 conference road wins is tied with Ohio State for the most in the league. Michigan State is next in line with 43.
The Badgers are not picky. They win here. They win there (stolen from Charlie Sheen).
Without a doubt, the Badgers would love to average more than the 60 points per game they manage in league play. But, if they score 52 and the opponent has 51, they will take it.
Especially at this stage of the season, when absolutely nothing is easy.
Against Penn State, the shots started to fall more frequently. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come.
However, if the offense starts scuffling again, the Badgers still can have a fighting chance, as long as the defense remains solid, they secure the basketball and they knock down pressure free throws.
That might end up being Wisconsin's winning recipe.
Of all the improbable achievements in Wisconsin athletics history, the 2001-02 Badger men's basketball team has to rank among the most remarkable.
With a roster featuring just one returning starter and only eight scholarship players, first-year head coach Bo Ryan watched his squad struggle to a 1-4 start. Incredibly, Ryan's team would spend the next four months battling back to earn a share of the school's first Big Ten championship in 55 years.
At halftime of Sunday's 65-55 win over Penn State, the University of the Wisconsin honored the 10-year anniversary of that 2002 Big Ten Championship team.
As seen in the video above, members of the team and staff were introduced Sunday to a standing ovation from a capacity Kohl Center crowd.
The 2001-02 Badgers won their final six conference games to finish the season with a 19-13 record, including an 11-5 mark in Big Ten play. Wisconsin earned a share of the Big Ten Conference title for the first time since 1947 and earned the league's No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. UW would advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament that year before falling to eventual national champion Maryland.
Ryan became the first-ever Badger coach to earn Big Ten Coach of the Year honors after leading UW to 19 wins, most ever for a first-year coach. He also became just the 10th coach in conference history to win a league title in his first season. RELATED CONTENT
Bloody but unbowed has been a cliche but apt metaphor for the Wisconsin-Michigan State series. Whenever these rivals meet, it seems, there's figuratively some blood spilt.
That doesn't include the occasional bad blood that has existed over the past decade.
After Thursday's slugfest, UW junior Jared Berggren was sporting five stitches under his chin. At one point, Berggren's blood had to be literally wiped off the court after the wound reopened.
There may be no better classroom in the Big Ten than the Breslin Center. After the 69-55 loss in East Lansing, Mich., Berggren conceded, "There's a lot to learn from."
Frank Kaminsky was in lockstep with Berggren's thinking.
"A game like this really teaches you what you need to improve on," said Kaminsky, the 6-foot-11, 230-pound freshman center from Lisle, Ill. "I'm going to take a lot away from this."
This was just another chapter in Kaminsky's orientation to the Big Ten. On this night, the teaching assistants were 6-9, 270-pound Derrick Nix and 6-10, 240-pound Adreian Payne.
"I learned how to fight back," Kaminsky said. "If they're pushing, you've got to push right back. You can't let down at any point in the game or they will take advantage of you.
"Everyone is big, everyone is strong. You have to neutralize their strength somehow. You've got to be smarter about the plays that you can go out there and make. That's what I'm learning right now."
There was one sequence where Nix was able to school Kaminsky on the low post. "They exploited me a little bit on defense," Kaminsky admitted. "I have to work harder."
Despite a baptism under fire to the raucous Izzone environment - not to mention dealing with MSU's imposing frontline, which also includes Draymond Green - Kaminsky did some good things.
While playing a Big Ten-high 12 minutes, Kaminsky grabbed a career-high six rebounds.
Speaking to the rebounding total which was split evenly (three each) between the offensive and defensive glass, UW associate head coach Greg Gard said, "I thought he was active that way."
Moreover, he noticed, "I don't think Frank was out of his element in any way."
On one possession, Gard said Kaminsky turned down a shot in transition that he needed to take. He also took a shot at the end of the clock when he could have kicked and gotten a better one.
His decision-making will improve with more experience, Gard implied.
But it's the physical part of the game that needs to be addressed during the off-season.
"Physically, he's adequate, but he's not where he needs to be," Gard said. "He needs another year of conditioning and weight lifting. He needs to change and reconfigure his body a little."
That's all part of getting a Big Ten education, particularly for a first-year player.
Nobody exposes you quicker than Michigan State, either.
"Enjoying and embracing the physical nature of the game is one thing that freshmen don't quite understand until they go through it a time or two," Gard said.
"Thursday's game will be a good reference point for Frank because now he has some understanding on why he needs to get stronger and the benefits that he can derive from it.
"We're so adamant about imposing your will and not backing down. That goes along with the fact we're always talking about playing physical without fouling; all the things that really good teams do.
"Maybe this knowledge will help him push through another set of squats in the weight room. Or maybe it will drive him to go a little harder when he's running the hill, whatever it may be."
Nix's steady development can be a case study for others in the conference. Since he weighed 340 pounds in high school, he has been reshaping his body. He's now down to 270.
Nix averaged only eight minutes of playing time his first two seasons with the Spartans. He's now up to 19, and he has become an integral contributor to the team's success around the rim.
What are the chances that the UW's Evan Anderson could play that role in the future? The 6-10, 260-pound Anderson, a redshirt freshman Eau Claire North, definitely has appealing size and strength.
"I think he's almost at the point where he can play right now and help," Gard said. "I really liked what I've seen. Not everything is perfect but he has a competitive fire about him.
"Evan has a little bit of a nasty edge. He just has to learn to polish up that nastiness to where he's not fouling all the time. But I don't see any reason why he can't come along the same path as Nix.
"He's a huge body and he loves to play physical. We need more of that."
During Wednesday night's practice at the Breslin Center, UW coach Bo Ryan was not satisfied with the work of his "bigs" so he pulled Anderson off the scout team and had him run with the starters.
"Some experience will do wonders for him," Gard said. "When he has been with me on the scout team, you can park him on the block and do some of the things Michigan State does (with Nix).
"There's no reason why he can't play for us down the road, if not sooner. He's never going to be light of foot or a leaper. But I see bigs across the country that aren't that way but they're effective.
"Hopefully we can get to the point with Evan where we can get him into the game for short spurts. It doesn't have to be eight minutes at a time - but a minute here and two minutes there."
That would apply, Gard suggested, "Whether he sinks or swims."
Which, he added, is the only way you learn how to swim.
Just ask Kaminsky who got his feet wet Thursday night in the shark tank.
As the regular season winds down, the annual postseason award debates will ramp up all over college basketball. The Big Ten Player of the Year race is coming into focus, but the final six games could go a long way in deciding the winner.
As a preseason All-America and All-Big Ten selection, senior Jordan Taylor's name has been on the conference player of the year short list since November.
However, after seeing a dip in his scoring from last season, Taylor's name probably isn't at the top of anyone's list. But is it close?
Looking at the current player of the year lists from three writers who cover the Big Ten -- Sporting News' Mike DeCourcey, ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf and BTN.com's Tom Dienhart -- each have Taylor third in the running behind Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Michigan State's Draymond Green.
That sounds fair considering the raw numbers during conference play: • Sullinger (18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg) • Green (14.6 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 3.5 apg) • Taylor (17.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.3 apg)
Perhaps the overall conference race will play as big of a factor as any in the player of the year voting.
If Wisconsin (which sits 1.0 game out of first place behind the Buckeyes and Spartans) can finish as Big Ten champions, it would be pretty hard to argue that any player is more valuable to his team's success than Taylor.
Taylor and the Badgers have two head-to-head opportunities with MSU and OSU to prove their worth. That starts Thursday in East Lansing.
Some random thoughts from someone who is thrilled that Travis Beckum will get a Super Bowl ring, but is disappointed for him that the price to pay includes a torn ACL:
We're talking about playoffs Is college football one step closer to a four-team playoff? Earlier this week the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein reported Big Ten officials are tossing around the thoughts of taking the top four teams in the final BCS poll and having them meet in semifinal games, with the higher-ranked squads earning home field advantage.
The winners would meet for the national championship at a site determined through a bid process.
Last month, BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said schools are looking at 50 to 60 different postseason plans, but this latest nugget sounds plenty intriguing to me.
The current BCS postseason agreement runs through the 2014 season, but perhaps the Big Ten, which as a conference has been anti-playoff, is ready to change its tune. To some, it might not include enough teams, but count me in as being in favor of this step.
I like the possibility of an SEC team travelling north to play a big game. Now, let us just wait and see whether it happens.
Leuer making an impact I don't know about you, but I find myself trying to watch a little more of the Milwaukee Bucks this season. The reason is Jon Leuer. Yes, the Bucks have been wildly inconsistent.
It also is true that here in Madison, interest in the NBA, and specifically the Bucks, appears to be choppy at best.
But it is fun for me to watch a former Badger standout who has put together some pretty good games in his rookie season.
While doing a little channel surfing last Saturday night, I caught some of their game with the Bulls. It was a long night for the Bucks, but I appreciated hearing Bulls color analyst and former player Stacey King praise Leuer, calling him a very good addition to the team.
Maturi will be missed Sticking with hoops, on Thursday night the Badgers will play the Gophers at Williams Arena, AKA, "The Barn." It will be good to see Joel Maturi, who this summer will retire as the University of Minnesota's athletics director.
Maturi has been the target of some harsh criticism in the Twin Cities, but it is clear he walked into a difficult environment. Perhaps the crown jewel of Maturi's 10 years as Minnesota's AD is TCF Bank Stadium, the football home for the Gophers.
Above all else, Joel Maturi simply is one of the good guys in college athletics. In the late 1990s, when he was the AD at the University of Denver, Maturi wanted to hire someone named Bo Ryan. Apparently, university officials had other ideas, so the move never happened.
Interesting how things work out sometimes, right?
Eddie earned his return Finally, welcome back Eddie Faulkner. Football coach Bret Bielema hired the former Badgers tailback to be the team's tight ends coach.
In his playing days, Faulkner would step in for Ron Dayne and Michael Bennett, and the team recognized his value.
For me, the first memory that jumps out is Faulkner's game-winning touchdown in overtime to beat Cincinnati in 2000.
It was a clutch performance by a player who understood and accepted his role.
It is good to see Eddie Faulkner establish himself as a respected coach. It is even better that he gets to return to his alma mater.
By Mike Lucas on February 4, 2012 8:08 AM
Traevon Jackson agreed to page through his photo album; committed to memory or otherwise.
In one snapshot, he's pictured with his fourth- and fifth-grade teammates: Trey Burke, now a freshman point guard at Michigan, and Jared Sullinger, now a sophomore All-American at Ohio State. (That's Jackson at far left in the front row and Sullinger at far right in the back row).
"We were all on the same team along with Adam Griffin (one of Archie's kid),'' said Jackson, a UW freshman. "He (Sullinger) used to eat at McDonald's every day and come out and shoot 3s.
"He was in fifth grade and only about 5-9; but he was big and chubby. Now, he's in great shape (6-9, 280). He's obviously improved his body a lot. He's a great player. He was still good then.''
There's a second snapshot of Jackson; a more recent one from last February.
Picture him in Wisconsin colors working the cash register and bagging groceries. During his senior year at Westerville (Ohio) South High School, he held a part-time job at a grocery store.
On this particular day -- Feb 12, 2011 -- the store employees were encouraged to honor their favorite college team. Since Jackson was committed to being a Badger, he represented accordingly.
Everybody else was in Ohio State colors.
"Everybody else in the store was sad,'' Jackson said, "except me.''
That was the day that the Badgers beat the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes at the Kohl Center. Jackson listened to the game on the radio and then raced home after work and watched the TV highlights.
"That was big,'' he said with a big grin.
Jackson will have a front row seat -- on the UW bench -- for Saturday's matchup against No. 3 Ohio State. Although his playing time has been limited, he will continue to prepare like he's a starter.
"That's the toughest thing going into games knowing that you may not step on the court,'' Jackson said, "but knowing in the back of your head that you've got to be ready.''
Jackson last played on Jan. 18 against Northwestern.
Overall, he's seen action in only 12 of 23 games.
"I honestly thought I'd be playing a little more,'' said Jackson. "But that's not the case. We've got guys ahead of me: Rob (Wilson) who's a senior and Ben (Brust) who has put in his time as well.
"You've got to respect that and just be ready whenever your time comes.''
A year ago, Brust went through the same freshman transition that Jackson is going through now. Brust played in just 15 of 34 games. He got fewer minutes (45) than Jackson already has seen (89).
This season, Brust has become a key contributor in the "sixth man'' role.
"He has obviously been a huge part of our success,'' Jackson said. "He stretches the defense. We need that. He's a guy who can come off the bench and create and knock down shots.
"Ben put in his work and his time came to perform (this year).
"That's what I've got to do (perform) when my time comes.''
During Thursday's practice, Jackson was wearing a white jersey -- which is worn by the starters and the top reserves. Wilson had a class and, in his absence, Jackson took his place in the rotation.
At one point, UW coach Bo Ryan teased Jackson about socializing with the scout team.
"Tomorrow, I will be back to the scout team,'' Jackson said afterward. "But it was nice today to see where you want to be in the future. You can show off your skill set while you're with the first team.''
Gearing up physically and mentally for every practice has been a part of Jackson's adjustment.
"It's a grind and you definitely have to be committed to it 100 percent,'' he said. "You have to have your focus every day. That's the biggest thing -- being consistent and giving that effort every day.''
Realistically, he conceded, it's just human nature to slough off sometimes. "But you have to push through things that you're not used to doing,'' he said.
That's part of the maturing process, Jackson added.
"The biggest key is mental toughness,'' he said. "To me, it means fighting through adversity when things aren't going right. You have to find a way to make it right -- regardless.
"If you're not hitting shots some days, you have to find other ways to get involved in the game. You have to find ways to stay active and not get down on yourself.
"You might not be playing some games. But you still have to find that desire and toughness to come back every day and get better by staying in the gym.''
Jackson feels like his game has definitely gotten better this season.
"I'm working daily on my ball-handling, working on my shooting, working on things that I feel I can bring to the team,'' he said. "As long as I'm doing these things when my time comes I'll be fine.''
The older, more experienced players have been supportive while reminding Jackson that "It's just a process -- some of them went through it -- and they just tell you to keep working'' in practice.
"That all goes back to being ready,'' Jackson said. "God forbid, if Rob or Ben got hurt, I'd have to be ready. Or, if they get in foul trouble, I'd have to be ready. That's the way I've prepared.''
Nobody is better prepared to simulate Ohio State on the scout team than Jackson, who has played with or against Sullinger, Jordan Sibert, J.D. Weatherspoon and LaQuinton Ross.
On the AAU circuit, he's also crossed paths with Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas and Sam Thompson.
"I pretty much know all of their games,'' Jackson said.
By his own admission, he will likely get more emotional in late February when Wisconsin and Ohio State play in Columbus because there will be a lot of family and friends in attendance.
Picture this: Traevon Jackson playing in the same arena where his dad's jersey is one of the retired numbers hanging from the rafters. Jim Jackson was a two-time All-American at Ohio State.
For now, though, his only focus is Saturday's game against the Buckeyes at the Kohl Center.
"I'm a Badger,'' he said. "We've got to beat them regardless of where my hometown is.''
In the last couple of weeks, the Badger men's basketball team has given fans a few more examples of how times continue to change, and for the better.
Last Sunday, Bo Ryan's team beat Illinois in Champaign. Ten days earlier the Badgers held off Purdue in West Lafayette. It marked the first time since 1918 that a Wisconsin team won in those two cities in the same season. For any team, winning at Purdue and at Illinois is difficult. The Badgers' miseries, especially in West Lafayette, are well documented.
Consider this year's success as another in a line of negative streak-busters accomplished by Ryan's Badgers.
Last Thursday, the Badgers defeated Indiana 57-50. It is the ninth-consecutive victory, and the 15th in the last 18 meetings for Wisconsin against Indiana. In addition, it is the 11th-straight home court win for the Badgers against IU.
You do not need to be in the "over 40" crowd to remember when the Badgers were on the other end of such a streak. From 1980 until 1997, Bob Knight's Indiana teams ran off 31 straight victories at Wisconsin's expense. Included in the domination was a 22-game home court winning streak against the Badgers -- until Ryan's first Wisconsin team ended the madness in February of 2002.
Knowing about that long, rough stretch of years might make it easier to appreciate what this current group of Badgers is doing against a storied basketball program.
Which brings us to another current streak that Wisconsin would love to extend. On Saturday, third-ranked Ohio State comes to town. No doubt there will be plenty of excitement. Perhaps not quite as much as last year, when an unbeaten and top-rated Buckeyes team visited the Kohl Center, but I would like to believe there will be no shortage of noise in the building.
Without a doubt Coach Thad Matta has put together one of nation's premier programs. OSU has had excellent role players as well as major star power. That trend continues this season.
The Kohl Center also happens to be the one building where Matta's Buckeyes have yet to win. They are 0-6 under the current boss, and OSU has dropped nine straight overall in Madison.
Perhaps to some, winning can be taken for granted. These streaks should not be viewed in such a manner. Like the bad streaks, the good ones will end sometime. The Badgers and their fans just hope this good stretch won't stop anytime soon.
Extending it another game will be a tall order. Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft make for a tremendous trio. There are those who believe Craft is the nation's best on-ball defender, which should make for another big time matchup with Jordan Taylor. When we last saw Taylor at home against Ohio State, the All-America guard was putting on a show for the ages, leading Wisconsin from a 15-point second-half deficit to give OSU its first loss of the season.
After starting Big Ten play 1-3, it might have been tempting to give up on this team. Instead, the Badgers have fought their way back into the conference race with six straight wins.
Sometimes they shoot it well. Other times they seem to get it done by sheer will.
Whatever the formula, they have found the right mix to turn negatives into positives. On Saturday, the home team would like nothing more than to keep streaking against a national power.
Bruesewitz on 'The Journey' Photo GalleryThe standard practice of "icing" the free throw shooter takes on a whole different context with Mike Bruesewitz, who may be the only player in college basketball with ice skates in his locker.
So it evolved on Thursday night with Bruesewitz converting free throws around a timeout in the final 15 seconds to help No. 25 Wisconsin "ice" a 57-50 victory over 16th-ranked Indiana at the Kohl Center.
As a team, the Badgers went 12-of-12 from the line in the second half after knocking down only 3-of-7 free throws in the first half thereby extending a curious trend.
---------------------------------------------------------------- Watch Bruesewitz on "The Journey 2012" Sunday, Jan. 29 - BTN - 7 p.m. CT ----------------------------------------------------------------
There was also a tale of two halves from the free throw line in UW's win at Illinois last Sunday: 2-of-8 in the first and 8-of-10 in the second; all of which suggests the obvious "ice water in the veins" cliche.
Bruesewitz would qualify as one of those players by birth. After all, he was born in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 outdoor hockey rinks, i.e. lakes i.e. the skates in his Kohl Center locker.
Big Ten Network was intrigued enough to film a segment on Bruesewitz for its "The Journey 2012" series, which has been chronicling many of the more unique basketball storylines in the league.
In the episode scheduled to air Sunday night at 7 p.m. (CT), Bruesewitz will be featured on the ice with a couple of UW hockey players in All-American defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Derek Lee.
Bruesewitz, Schultz and Lee have been friends since their freshman year together in the dorms.
"They were great sports to do it," Bruesewitz said.
The filming took place at Vilas Park. At one point, Lee manned the camera at ice level while Schultz and Bruesewitz skated to the net, passing the puck back and forth between them.
"I hadn't skated outdoors in a long time," Bruesewitz said.
The last time he played competitive hockey was in the seventh grade.
"My dangling (juking) skills are sub-par now," he said. "But I used to dangle back in the day."
Bruesewitz was a center iceman in youth hockey.
"When the Kohl Center ice is down, I'll probably skate six or seven times a year," he said. "It's a little different activity for me and it gets me away from everything."
"My claim to fame is that I scored on a couple of college-age goalies."
Laughing, he added, "But I won't mention any names."
However, he did drop Jordan Taylor's name in the conversation since Taylor also hails from Minnesota. The natural assumption, of course, is that everyone who grew up in the state can skate.
"Jordan tries," Bruesewitz said of UW's All-American point guard. "But he's like Louis Mendoza from (the movie) 'The Mighty Ducks.' He can skate pretty fast, but he can't stop."
Over the last 13 minutes and 24 seconds of Thursday's game, Taylor's offense was "on ice" but, despite not scoring, he did all the other critical little things to ensure success against the Hoosiers.
More telling in the long run may have been the fact that his teammates picked him up. Ben Brust and Ryan Evans each scored 10 points in the second half. Evans also finished with nine rebounds.
"We didn't have a great shooting night as a team but finding other ways to win is real encouraging," said Evans, who was only 2-of-8 from the field but 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
"My rebounding got me to the line."
Evans acknowledged that he has struggled in the first half in each of the last two home games.
"But I'm fortunate that Coach (Bo Ryan) is not giving up on me," he said. "It's very important knowing that I'm going to get a chance in the second half to turn things around, which I felt I did."
Throughout the season, Indiana's Christian Watford has hit clutch shots, including the game-winner over No. 1 ranked Kentucky. But Evans limited Watford to just six points in the second half.
"I consider myself a defensive player," Evans said, "and I kind of learn about a player throughout the game. I knew that he (Watford) was going to be aggressive at the end, so I wanted to contain him.
"I knew that he was strong to the right hand so I wanted to force him left a little bit more."
The scouting report also factored into Bruesewitz's defense on Cody Zeller. "He's one of the best freshman not only in the Big Ten but the country; one of the best big men regardless of class," he said.
For long stretches -- however long he was on the floor due to foul trouble -- Wisconsin center Jared Berggren did a terrific defensive job on Zeller and ended up with a career- high five blocked shots.
But it was the 6-foot-6 Bruesewitz who checked the 6-11 Zeller down the stretch.
"I just wanted to make sure he had to work as hard as possible to get the ball," Bruesewitz said. "That's always been my M.O., especially in post-defense being a little undersized.
"Sometimes it helps that I can duck under those bigger guys and get in front of them and work a little harder than them. My whole thought process was to make him work.
"I wanted to make him do something he wasn't comfortable doing. We had watched a lot of film on Zeller. Watching him go against Jared, he did a lot of countering, especially on the baseline."
One of the key possessions of the game revolved around Bruesewitz' post defense on Zeller. With the Badgers protecting a 53-50 lead, Zeller missed a short jump hook and Taylor rebounded.
"I thought he might go baseline," Bruesewitz said. "I told everybody afterward if he would have continued to the middle, he probably would have had a dunk or a layup. But he countered."
Thanks to that aforementioned scouting report -- "Our coaches do a great job letting us know all that stuff" -- Bruesewitz was ready for Zeller's counter move. Standing tall, he forced a difficult shot.
At the opposite end, Bruesewitz then pulled down an offensive rebound. Although he was all alone under the basket -- Zeller had fallen down -- he took the ball back outside and got fouled.
"I'm not quite sure how he ended up on his butt," said Bruesewitz, clearing his throat. Wink, wink. "But Watford was behind me and there was a lot of traffic. I didn't know where everybody was.
"My whole through process there was to get it out and try to run some clock. I almost turned the ball over. But luckily I got it back as soon as I lost it and I got to the free throw line."
That would not be a cause for celebration this season, since Bruesewitz was shooting 53 percent from the line in Big Ten games. But he claimed that was an aberration, not a sign of things to come.
Validating that thinking, he went 4-of-4 against the Hoosiers.
"The free throw line is all about mental toughness and confidence," said Bruesewitz. "It's just repetition. I know that I'm a good free throw shooter. It just hasn't shown."
To get back on track, he has been staying after practice to shoot 50 to 100 free throws. Before Thursday morning's shoot-around, he also got on the floor early to work on his stroke and rhythm.
In the second half, Bruesewitz and his teammates drew nothing but net, and cheers.
"Personally I feed off the crowd," Evans said. "That was huge for me and the team."
"The crowd was amped and got here early," Bruesewitz said. "I don't think a lot of people around here like Indiana too much.
"I know it was really fun to have a rocking Kohl Center."