Quicker shots fuel Badgers’ winning streak

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
— Minutes after Wisconsin suffered an 18-point loss Jan. 8 at Michigan, junior forward Mike Bruesewitz stood outside the UW locker room and pondered a losing streak that had reached three games.

His focus was UW’s misfiring offense—21.4 percent three-point shooting, 33.3 percent shooting overall, and just 55.3 points per game—in the three losses.

“We’ve got to stop grinding possessions down so far and then throw the ball to Jordan and say: ‘Go make a play for

us, ’” Bruesewitz said, referring to senior guard Jordan Taylor. “We’ve got to be a little more aggressive early in the shot clock.”

Whether the result of design or the natural maturation of players adjusting to expanded roles, UW has been more aggressive early in the shot clock and done a better job scoring in transition since the loss at Michigan.

Those improvements have contributed significantly to a five-game winning streak that has carried No. 19 UW (17-5,

6-3) to within a game of first place in the Big Ten entering its game at 7 p.m. today at Penn State (10-12, 2-7).

“This little streak we’re on,” Bruesewitz said, “we are moving the ball better and guys are looking to be more aggressive early in the shot clock.

“That’s something we wanted to focus on and we talked a lot about it after the loss to Michigan.”

During the five-game streak, UW has shot 36% from three-point range, 42.6% overall and averaged 63.6 points per game.

The streak began with a 67-62 victory at Purdue.

In that victory, UW raced to a 22-4 lead just 7 minutes 19 seconds into the game.

The average time left on the shot clock for UW’s first nine field goals was 21 seconds.

The quickest basket was a jumper by Ryan Evans on an in-bounds play, one second into the possession.

The latest basket was a three-pointer by Bruesewitz, with 11 seconds on the shot clock.

“They are taking the first good look,” ESPN analyst Stephen Bardo said during the game.

Then in the second half after the Boilermakers had pulled within 48-45, UW countered with back-to-back three-pointers in a 28-second span.

Bruesewitz hit an open three-pointer in a half-court set with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. Ben Brust then stole a pass, after a Purdue miss and offensive rebound and got the ball to Taylor.

Taylor pushed the ball up the court, hit Brust on the left wing and Brust buried a three-pointer just five seconds into the possession.

“We just need to be aggressive,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. “I think early in the year if we had a good look we were trying to make the extra pass to get a great look.

“It’s not (always) going to be there. You play in the Big Ten. If you get a good look you’ve got to take it because that might be your best opportunity, whether it is with 25 on the shot clock or with five.”

Taylor has 18 assists and only three turnovers during the winning streak and has done an admirable job choosing when to push the ball in transition. The results have been lay-ins or open three-pointers off the secondary break.

“The first thing is you’ve got to take care of the defensive possession,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “We’ve been able to force teams into tough shots or turnovers. And we’ve been pretty good on the defensive glass.

“And then obviously Jordan is as good as it gets in terms of making decisions in transition.”

Curiously, Taylor doesn’t believe the players have made a conscious effort to take shots earlier. He added the players had the same approach in the three-game losing streak.

However, he did acknowledge UW’s increased proficiency and versatility on offense during the five-game winning streak have given teams more to worry about.

“Sometimes a team might get a little complacent (defensively),” he said. “They’re expecting us to wait, until 10 seconds. But you’ve got to make a team play for all 35 seconds on the shot clock.

“They’ve got to be ready for us to shoot with 30 seconds on the clock or with five seconds on the clock.”

Last updated: 2:19 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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