It was one of those big plays that could have jumpstarted the rest of the season for forward Mike Bruesewitz
In a game Feb.28 against Minnesota where points were at a premium, Bruesewitz grabbed the defensive rebound, got the ball back on the offensive end, drove hard to the bucket, made the shot and drew a blocking foul.
It was a 3-point play that No.14 Wisconsin needed on its way 52-45 victory over Minnesota but when asked afterward about how key his only made shot in five attempts was, Bruesewitz brought up the negative.
"I thought I should have dunked the ball," said Bruesewitz glumly.
That's the kind of season it's been for the junior from Minnesota; a season that was expected to be a lot better.
Five days after spraining his knee in a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Bruesewitz and his red afro scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, and grabbed nine rebounds in 28 minutes in an opening-round victory against Belmont.
He followed up that performance by scoring 11 points and pulling down six rebounds against Kansas State to send UW to its fourth Sweet 16 since 2000 and played 21 minutes and scored seven points off the bench in its season-ending loss to Butler. In all, he averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament, much better than his 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds throughout the season.
So with UW losing six seniors, including four post players, Bruesewitz has been understandably frustrated with his scoring. Despite starting 18 more games than he did a year ago, Bruesewitz enters Friday's Big Ten quarterfinal against No.15 Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse averaging only 5.9 points per game, two points lower than any other starter.
"I haven't been shooting that bad in practice, they just haven't been going down in games," said Bruesewitz. "Hopefully that will change eventually."
It's not just the scoring that has been abnormal for Bruesewitz. Scoring in double figures only six times this season and not since Feb.4, Bruesewitz is averaging 0.6 more fouls per game and has fouled out three times.
The way Bruesewitz sees it, it's him simply trying to do too much, like diving back into the play to try and make something happen to correct a miss or a mistake
"You are allowed one foul in the first half," said Bruesewitz. "Not two … so I have to stop with the dumb fouls."
While his shot is in a season-long funk, Bruesewitz has found ways to energize No.14 Wisconsin in other ways. He ranks second on the team and 13th in the Big Ten with 5.3 rebounds per game. He is also averaging 2.0 offensive rebounds per game, which places him ninth.
His two shining moments in the hustle category were grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds in a 10-point home win over Penn State and following his 3-point play against Minnesota, snared an offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Jordan Taylor for a 3-pointer from the top of the key .
That gave the Badgers a nine-point lead, it's largest of the game up to that point.
"Mike is like a pit bull," said Taylor. "He just never stops. He's going to scrap and do whatever he has to do to help the team, regardless of how he is shooting.
"(He) is just one of those guys where you don't have to say much. He's not going to back down or shy away. He does so many other things, too, that I don't think he's going to think about (his shot) too much. He's a good shooter. He just has to trust in himself."
At this point of the season, Bruesewitz – who has played the most minutes of his college career - wasn't willing to use exhaustion as an excuse, especially since he was excited with ‘tournament time being right around the corner.'
Bruesewitz is a big believer in postseason momentum depending on the team. He calls his teammates a ‘tough minded group that has been through a lot,' especially rebounding from a 1-3 start to the Big Ten season to rattle off seven straight wins.
For a guy his teammates describe as ‘a bulldog,' a wide-open Big Ten Tournament seems like the perfect place for Bruesewitz to find that March magic once again.
"You just got to keep playing. You can't sit there and dwell on that I haven't made a shot in a month or a year. You just have to keep playing and not worrying about it. You have to have amnesia and think that the next shot is going down."
With his floppy red afro and his tough-as-nails mentality to come back five days after a knee sprain, Mike Bruesewitz was the feel-good story of UW's NCAA Tournament. After a challenging regular season, Bruesewitz is looking to find that magic again for No.14 Wisconsin heading into Friday's Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal.