Badgers' Gasser brings hot hand into rematch with Indiana
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--As a shooter, Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser is reluctant but ruthless.
“I bet there are times when people are like: ‘Yeah, we got him to take a tough one,’” teammate Ben Brust, who is reluctant to stop shooting from deep, said after a recent practice. “And then—swish—it just snaps the net.
“Just ruthless. That’s a good word. I like that.”
Opponents don’t like seeing Gasser drill timely 3-pointers, but they’ve been helpless to stop the redshirt junior guard from Port Washington.
With No. 14 UW (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) set to host Indiana (15-11, 5-8) at 8 p.m. today, Gasser is leading the Big Ten in 3-point accuracy at 46.3 percent (37 of 80).
Gasser, who shot 45.2 percent from 3-point range two seasons ago as a sophomore, is third on UW in 3-point attempts (80) and fifth on the team in overall field-goal attempts (140).
“He’s opportunistic,” UW coach Bo Ryan said. “He’s one of those guys that isn’t going to take a bad shot.”
Yet when UW needs a big shot, particularly from beyond the arc, Gasser is the team’s No. 1 threat.
When UW hit just 5 of 23 3-pointers in a 48-38 victory Dec. 4 at Virginia, Gasser hit 2 of 2 attempts. The second came in the second half and effectively killed a Virginia rally.
When UW needed to hold off Illinois in the second half to snap a two-game losing streak, Gasser hit two critical 3-pointers.
Frank Kaminsky stole the headlines with a double-double when UW stunned Michigan in Ann Arbor, but Gasser hit 3 of 4 3-pointers that day. He hit two bombs to help UW race to a 10-2 lead UW never lost, and then hit a third in the second half to give UW a 62-51 lead.
Gasser hit 4 of 5 3-pointers in UW’s 79-74 victory at Iowa. He hit 3 3-pointers in the final 9 minutes, 50 seconds after re-entering the game with three fouls.
“As soon as I put him back in,” Ryan said, “sure enough, good things happened.”
The second-half 3-pointers against Iowa came with UW trailing in a tense game. Gasser’s shots forged a 54-54 tie, pulled UW within 64-63 and gave UW a 69-68 lead.
“He has stepped up in some critical situations,” UW assistant Lamont Paris said. “There have been a couple times where guys shied away it seemed. He just … no hesitancy. He has an affinity for doing that.”
Gasser, second on the team in minutes played (33 per game) and fifth in scoring (9.0 ppg), was able to work on his shot while he recovered from a knee injury that forced him to miss the 2012-13 season.
“He takes such high-percentage shots,” Big Ten Network analyst Mike Kelley said. “When he shoots it, you know it’s going in.”
Gasser, who generally draws the opponent’s best wing scorer, also has almost twice as many assists (45) as turnovers (23).
Remember that before the knee injury Gasser was set to start at point guard last season.
“I’m a guy who gets to the lane and makes plays for others,” Gasser said. “Even if I’m just driving to the hoop and not looking to score myself, I can get my teammates open.”
The one area of Gasser’s offense that remains unstable is the ability to drive to the basket and finish consistently.
Because of the knee injury, Gasser isn’t yet explosive enough to beat his man off the dribble and score in traffic.
“Definitely,” he acknowledged. “I just haven’t had the reps at it. Offseason I didn’t do much of it. Even in practice I don’t do much of it just because I’m trying to stay healthy.
“It kind of sucks. I don’t like that, but it’s just the way it is … I’ve missed a couple layups that I should make. That’s just the way it goes. …
“I guess once the offseason comes I’ll try to work at that. Right now I’m just trying to help my team whatever way I can.”
Gasser has done that with generally sticky defense and timely 3-point shooting.
“He is the ultimate IQ guy in anything he does,” Brust said. “He knows when it is the right time to make the play. And he makes the play.
“He hits them when it matters. He makes big plays for the team when it needs to happen.”
Reluctant but ruthless.