March 22, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans all have experience in low-scoring, offensively-challenged games. They’ve won some, too, on the strength of team defense -- 47-41 over Nebraska and 45-44 over Minnesota.
But there was a much different feeling in the UW locker room inside the Sprint Center on Friday afternoon. There were red eyes and tears and plenty of regrets for allowing Ole Miss off the hook in the first half. Instead of a double-digit lead, the Badgers were only up 25-22.
That foreshadowed trouble because Ole Miss had gotten nearly nothing out of their sniper, Marshall Henderson, who was shooting blanks and had only two points in the first 20 minutes. UW, in fact, extended its lead to six points, 36-30, before Henderson woke up.
The Badgers never did.
After Henderson drained his triple, it was the beginning of the end for a Wisconsin team that could never get untracked on offense. There would be opportunities to reverse the momentum but Ole Miss was tougher down the stretch and pulled out a 57-46 victory in the teams’ second-round NCAA tournament matchup.
The seniors took it the hardest because they won’t get another chance.
“It was a struggle (offensively),’’ Bruesewitz said. “I think I came in a little overzealous. I didn’t do the things that I normally do -- making good decisions. I was kind of loose with the ball and that kind of started an avalanche. I’ll take a lot of the blame for that.
“We never got anything going. We struggled to get it inside. They were more athletic, but we had some stuff to negate that but we just didn’t get it done. I’ve been in a lot of games like this in my career. Sometimes they go this way.
“It’s a tough one because it’s the last time that I will be putting on 3-1 for Wisconsin.’’
Evans thought “a whole bunch of guys were playing pretty tight.’’
Agreeing that the Badgers should have had a bigger advantage at halftime, he said, “To their credit, they played tough defense. We did a good job on Henderson in the beginning, but he has no conscience and he has the green light and he continued to (shoot).’’
Berggren, who represented the seniors at the postgame presser, felt once the momentum swung in the second half that “we couldn’t make a play to stop their run.’’
The Badgers shot only 25 percent for the game.
“We shot the ball poorly and it’s hard to pinpoint a reason why,’’ Berggren said. “I know we have guys who put in the time and the hard work. But sometimes you don’t get out of it what you put in. It’s tough, at this point, to swallow.’’
Asked about the positives this season, he said, “Obviously, right now, it’s nothing but heartbreak and disappointment. Once we have some time to calm the emotions and take a step back, we’ll see that we had a pretty successful year.
“A lot of people didn’t think we would amount to what we did. But we had a team that fought hard and persevered through a lot and found a way to get to the tournament. Obviously we wanted to make a run here. That’s not the case now.
“In time, we’ll be able to look back on it, and enjoy the success a little more.’’
Looking ahead, Bruesewitz said, “We’ve got some good young guys coming back. They’ve got a lot of minutes and experience they’ve got to fill. But this group will be good next year. I don’t think it’s out of the question they’ll be challenging for a Big Ten title.’’