Bruesewitz hasn’t become the offensive force he wants to be
Asked whether he had come close to matching his preseason goals, including becoming a more consistent offensive threat, Wisconsin’s junior forward acknowledged he was still grinding away.
“I’ve been up and down until recently,” Bruesewitz said.
Bruesewitz, who has started all 19 games, should play a crucial role as UW (14-5, 3-3 Big Ten) attempts to move up in the league standings, beginning at 8 p.m. today against visiting Northwestern (12-5, 2-3).
“I think he is trending upward,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “I think in the last two weeks he is just more active.
“Maybe the numbers haven’t been there, but just in terms of his activity level his pace around the floor has increased.
“I think any time you do that, your rebounds, your touches, even if you keep balls alive and maybe you don’t secure the rebound but extend the possession. . . the rest of it will come.
“He just needs to continue to bring that energy like he has done.”
Infusing the lineup with energy hasn’t ever been an issue for the 6-foot-6 Bruesewitz.
The high point came during UW’s three NCAA Tournament games last season. Despite playing with a minor knee injury suffered in the Big Ten tournament, Bruesewitz averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the NCAAs. He shot 40 percent from three-point range (4 of 10) and 57.1 percent overall (8 of 14).
Bruesewitz, who was primarily a reserve last season, wanted to build off those numbers.
However, he enters the Northwestern game averaging 6.2 points and 5.1 rebounds. His shooting (41.1 percent) is down from last season (47.1 percent), though his three-point shooting (37.2 percent) is up from last season (32.3 percent).
“I think he is growing into his role,” Gard said. “He went from 10 minutes of the Energizer Bunny to now you’ve got to play 30 minutes.”
Foul trouble has been an issue. Bruesewitz leads the team in fouls with 41, despite the fact he is sixth on the team in minutes played (462, 24.3 per game).
“Early in the year I would pick up a few dumb fouls,” he said. “It was just me not being smart.
“You pick up one of those and all of a sudden you get a cheap foul or one you need to give and all of a sudden you’re sitting on the bench.”
Bruesewitz was limited to 21 minutes and fouled out with 39.1 seconds left last week at Purdue but battled through the foul trouble to contribute 12 points (on 4-for-4 three-point shooting) and five rebounds in a 67-62 victory.
With the outcome in doubt in the second half, Bruesewitz snared three consecutive defensive rebounds in a span of 2 minutes 49 seconds.
“For getting in foul trouble and then having to sit quite a bit and then coming back in in the second half,” Gard said, “he really gave us a boost.”
Bruesewitz provided a similar boost Sunday in the 50-45 victory over Nebraska despite struggling offensively. He missed all three of his three-pointers and finished with four points in 27 minutes. But he added five rebounds and made several key plays down the stretch with pure tenacity.
Bruesewitz knows he can be more consistent offensively. He has worked diligently on his perimeter shooting since coming to UW. He can handle the ball well enough to take a defender off the dribble from the wing and get into the lane for a shot or a pass to an open defender.
“I’m still working to be as consistent as possible,” he said, “as constant a force as possible on this team.
“Defensively I’ve been able to do it a lot this year. Offensively it has been a little bit of a struggle.
“But I’ll keep working in the gym, keep grinding and things will eventually work themselves out.”