The guys from Illinois stick up for themselves at No. 9 Wisconsin. If a teammate starts ribbing Ben Brust about being from the Land of Lincoln, the Badgers guard likes to dish it right back.
“All they know is cheese and dairy,” Brust joked about the in-state Badgers. “It’s all in good fun.”
Things are pretty upbeat these days in Madison, where Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten) is riding a seven-game winning streak heading into the season’s final home game against Purdue on Wednesday. Time for Brust, a senior from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., to take his last bow at the Kohl Center.
Emotions will run high, as they always do on a Senior Night. But the game against the Boilermakers comes with additional perspective for a team that’s had one tough stretch of basketball sandwiched by a record 16-0 start and what the team hopes will be a strong finish to the regular season.
No one is more familiar with the highs and lows than Brust, coach Bo Ryan’s best 3-point threat who has had to endure recent slumps. A career 38 percent shooter from long range, Brust had a 5-of-20 stretch over three games a few weeks ago. That was soon followed by a two-game run of 1 of 13 from behind the arc.
The shot has come back the last two games with Brust hitting 7 of 16 from 3-point territory. No need for “shooter’s amnesia” for now.
“It’s OK to remember the good ones,” Brust said. “You hit one or two and it starts feeling pretty good.”
Averaging a career-best 12.6 points a game, Brust helps provide the outside shot on one of the most potent offensive teams in Ryan’s 13-year tenure at Wisconsin. He’s only 6-foot-1, but Brust is also the team’s third-leading rebounder at 4.8 per game.
Brust is also able to effectively guard taller opponents by pestering and not clutching or grabbing to slow someone down.
“You’ve been on a picnic before, you’ve been camping, you’ve been outdoors. How big is a mosquito? Not very big,” Ryan said. “But, boy, can it be a nuisance.”
It is Brust’s ability to hit the 3 that will leave the most enduring impression on the school’s passionate hoops fans. He’s a mainstay in cardinal and red with 115 games played and 64 career starts entering Wednesday.
Ryan loves Brust’s ability to quickly come off screens and fire away in that split second when the guard might be the most open. His most memorable play is draining a shot from midcourt to force overtime in the Badgers 65-62 win over then-No. 3 Michigan last season.
“Well, Ben is a young man who – never tell somebody who’s vertically challenged that they might not be good enough or might not be this, might not be that,” Ryan said. “So his game, his all-around game – he’ll be known for his outside shooting – but his all-around game has helped put us each year where we are at the end.”
Brust’s 210 career 3s rank fifth in school history. He needs 18 to break a record set by Tim Locum in 1988-91. Keep playing the way they’re playing of late, and the Badgers have a shot of staying on the court deep into March and giving Brust a chance to set a school mark.
Notes: Besides Brust, C Evan Anderson and F Zach Bohannon – both reserves – will be honored on Senior Night. … Freshman F Vitto Brown was not scheduled to practice Tuesday to an upper leg muscle strain. He’s considered day-to-day. … Wisconsin returned to the top 10 this week for the first time since the week of Jan. 20.
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