Feb. 18, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis.-- When Ryan Evans woke up Saturday morning, he was too sick - You know how you want to die too sick? - to do anything but go back to bed. You will not see his daylong bout with what he said was the stomach flu on any episode of the "Journey'' which is a good thing since Wisconsin's senior forward has no interest in reliving what he went through. Kesha's song title might have crossed his mind.
"I'm glad to be living, I'll tell you that - I lost 10 pounds, I was down to 199,'' said Evans whose playing weight is around 210. "I caught it (a 24-hour bug) last year but it was a different time frame. It wasn't right before a game like this was. I woke at about 6:30 Saturday morning and I was in bed all day. I was just starting to recover about 9 at night to where I could actually consume fluids.''
Evans was well enough to consume something else: the NBA Slam Dunk contest. He may have even filed something away for the Buckeyes. Slowly but surely, he began feeling like himself again while regaining his strength by following everything that was mapped out for him by UW trainer Henry Perez-Guerra. By the time that Evans got to the Kohl Center on Sunday morning, his weight was up to 205.
"I did what Henry told me and I came out feeling great today, which was amazing, because I didn't think I'd feel this good,'' admitted Evans who answered the bell for his 62nd consecutive start. He made it a memorable one, too, by putting the exclamation point on Wisconsin's 71-49 thumping of Ohio State with a rim-rattling tip-dunk in the second half that would have made Terrence Ross proud.
Ross, a 6-6 rookie guard with the Toronto Raptors, won the Slam Dunk in Houston. Asked about his royal flush against the Buckeyes - off a missed Sam Dekker 3-pointer - Evans chuckled and said, "I felt like I was 10 pounds lighter.'' On whether he was releasing some personal frustration from last Thursday night's overtime loss at Minnesota, he conceded, "That could have been. It felt good.''
It didn't hurt either that Evans got off to a good start Sunday by making his first shot; a jumper from the right wing. "Oh, yeah, it always helps to see the ball go in, without a doubt,'' said Evans who made only 2-of-8 field goal attempts against the Gophers. On top of that, he was also 2-of-8 from the free throw line. "We were moving the ball well today and everybody came together offensively.''
Evans was sporting a cut on his lower lip, the result of an errant elbow. But you should have seen the other guy. The Buckeyes were left bruised and battered after the Badgers unleashed an 18-0 run which broke an early 6-6 tie and lifted them into a commanding 24-6 lead at the 9:20 mark of the first half. The rout was on after Ohio State missed 14 consecutive shots over an 8-minute plus stretch.
"The biggest thing was that we just kept getting stops, and kept forcing tough shots,'' said UW senior Mike Bruesewitz, who got some help from Evans and his teammates in "holding'' the Big Ten's leading scorer Deshaun Thomas to 18 points, three under his average. "I tried my best not to give him anything easy. If he gets rolling, he's tough to stop. It's the same with all those guys.''
he Badgers were on the other side of a 15-0 run in Columbus which allowed the Buckeyes to rally from a 41-37 deficit. "We came out and kind of punched them in the mouth early and took care of business,'' Bruesewitz said of Sunday's rematch at the Kohl Center which was rockin' in the student section to the "Harlem Shake" (Chris Borland, Beau Allen, James White, Melvin Gordon and Warren Herring were the UW football players among the co-conspirators) and "Die Young'' long before the opening tipoff.
"It helps when the ball goes in,'' Bruesewitz added, "and we felt our legs were under us a little better today. We felt like we could have won at Minnesota but we didn't take care of it. So we came back with the mindset that you can't have a hangover from it. We had a couple of really good days of practice; the scout team did the job for us and Ryan came out and played really well.''
| "You have to keep pushing forward in this conference if you're going to be successful. You really don't have time to get down on yourself."
Evans was grateful for the support. "To have the home crowd behind you - that's what carries us through, it really does,'' he said. "You have to keep pushing forward in this conference if you're going to be successful. You really don't have time to get down on yourself. We know what we're looking to do here and there are going to be lows. But the lows are what creates the highs.''
Bruesewitz matched his season high with four assists; tying him for game honors with Traevon Jackson, who was solid at both ends. Despite being hounded by Aaron Craft, arguably the best on-ball defender in the country, Jackson found creative ways to get his teammates involved offensively, whether it was a bounce pass to Bruesewitz in transition or a lob to Sam Dekker who finished with a dunk.
One of Jackson's assists created a scoring opportunity for Jared Berggren who finished with 15 points; marking his fourth straight game in double-figures against the Buckeyes. "We did a good job of making hard cuts and drawing help that way,'' said Berggren, noting the movement without the ball "draws attention towards the rim and then guys stepped out for some open 3-pointers.''
Ben Brust was one of the beneficiaries when he wasn't gaining separation with a deft move or ball fake. He made 3-pointers on three of four possessions fueling the mega-run. "I was just trying to get us going,'' said Brust who registered his first Big Ten double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) and fifth of his career. "Our bigs did a good job of boxing out and I made sure my guy wasn't coming when I went after them (boards).''
Brust wound up playing "only'' 37 minutes against Ohio State. In the previous three games, he had logged 43, 40, and 45 minutes. On the heels of all those overtimes, was there any chance that he was running on fumes? "Not really, let's go play another game,'' he said facetiously afterward. "Each game is so important that you don't have time to whine about how your body feels. It doesn't matter.''
The player's resiliency - their physical and mental toughness - was on display Sunday. "I just thought we stuck to what Wisconsin does; we moved on to the next one,'' said UW video coordinator Joe Krabbenhoft who knows something about toughness from his playing days with the Badgers. He pointed out that everyone stayed even-keeled after the two overtime wins and the overtime loss.
"There was a mutual understanding of what needed to be done,'' Brust agreed. "You have to learn from it first and then put it (the overtime loss at Minnesota) in the rearview mirror.''
This is nothing new for this team. "It's been the case all year when we've had tough losses, we've regrouped and played well the next game,'' said UW assistant Gary Close. "We can't afford to stumble if we want to stay in the race and we can be in the race all the way if we take care of business.''
You could see the pressure of the Big Ten race - the Badgers are deadlocked with Michigan, two games behind the co-leaders Indiana and Michigan State - manifest itself with Bruesewitz at the start of the second half. While waiting to in-bounds the ball at mid-court, he sat on the table in front of CBS announcers Tim Brando and Bill Raftery and started up a conversation.
"What's up guys?'' he asked playfully.
Bruesewitz already knew the answer by that point. Wisconsin's arrow is up.