Badgers relying on duo
NEW ORLEANS They are integral parts of both the present and future of Wisconsin basketball.
Guard Josh Gasser is the freshman starter, more poised and with an all-around game more advanced than anyone could have imagined.
Forward Mike Bruesewitz is the sophomore reserve, a player whose performances and personality can be as brilliant as the red mop that adorns his head.
“Mike and Josh are two tough kids,” junior guard Jordan Taylor said of his Wisconsin teammates. “They respond game in and game out. They come up with big play after big play.”
When fourth-seeded UW (25-8) faces eighth-seeded Butler (25-9) in the NCAA Sweet 16 at 8:57 tonight, Taylor and senior forward Jon Leuer once again will be expected to lead the way.
Yet the play of Bruesewitz and Gasser has been instrumental in UW reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 and has shown that the future of the program remains bright.
Consider what Bruesewitz has contributed in the two NCAA Tournament games despite playing with a brace to support the right knee he sprained on March 11 in the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Bruesewitz is third on the team in scoring (9.5 points per game), first in rebounds (7.5 per game) and is shooting 66.7 percent from three-point range
(4 of 6) and 75 percent overall (6 of 8).
“He has taken some nice steps not only for the rest of this year,” associate head coach Greg Gard said, “but also jumping on the launch pad for what is down the road in the years to come.”
After playing passively in the Big Ten tournament and against Belmont—with a combined one point, two field-goal attempts, three rebounds and five fouls—Gasser contributed 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals against Kansas State.
“To be honest I was pretty excited going into the K-State game just because you know he hadn’t had his best game against Belmont,” Taylor said. “Any time he doesn’t have his best game he is going to come back with a good game. I felt like we had that on our side.”
UW is fortunate to have both players on its side.
Remember that Gasser:
Recorded the first triple-double in program history (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) in a victory over Northwestern, buried the game-winning three-pointer to beat Michigan, is second on the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.52 with 73 assists and 29 turnovers) and is shooting 52.2 percent from three-point range over the last 13 games (12 of 23).
“Once you hit a couple you start to get a little more confident and start looking for it a little more,” Gasser said.
Remember that Bruesewitz:
Buried critical three-pointers in victories over Ohio State and Kansas State, has improved his three-point shooting from nothing as a freshman (0 of 8) to 34.5 percent this season (20 of 58) and his overall field-goal percentage from 33.3 percent to 47.8 percent this season.
“It was a lot of hours in a gym,” said Bruesewitz, who received a few tips from UW assistant Gary Close. “That’s pretty much the secret to shooting—getting in the gym and working on it.”
Their games are similar. Their personalities could not be more different.
Bruesewitz never stops chatting, loves vintage NBA jerseys and plays Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, a toy first manufactured in 1964, in his free time.
Gasser is far less loquacious, doesn’t acknowledge a similar wardrobe fetish and prefers his iPod to vintage toys.
“I don’t want to say fire and ice,” senior forward Keaton Nankivil said of their differing personalities. “It’s not that drastic. But … Mike would be fire, by the way.”