A Step Forward

While his shooting percentage still leaves a lot to be desired, senior forward Ryan Evans made the right plays Saturday, leading the team in points, rebounds and assists to help Wisconsin break a two game losing streak.

MADISON - For the second time in five games, a Big Ten victory came down to free throw for the University of Wisconsin, something that Ryan Evans would tell say he's familiar with this season.

"What I always think is knock them down," Evans said about the two free throws he missed in the second half. "They obviously didn't go in. We bounced back, Traevon hit two big shots. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't."

The bounces finally went Wisconsin's way thanks to Jackson's jumper with 2.1 seconds left, allowing the Badgers to pull out a 45-44 victory over No.12 Minnesota Saturday, but the fact that Evans rebounded from a dreadful performance Tuesday put Wisconsin in that position.

After shooting 2-for-12 in a two-point loss to No.13 Michigan State, Evans went 4-for-10 from the field to lead Wisconsin with 10 points, had a team-high eight rebounds, a block, a steal and three assists, two of which came in vital situations.

Driving baseline with just under 12 minutes to go, Evans drew four defenders before kicking the ball out to George Marshall on the perimeter for an open three-pointer. One possession later, Evans drew a double team, allowing Ben Brust to receive Evans pass and knock down another wide-open three-pointer.

"His court awareness was good," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. "He made some plays, especially on that kick out to George for the three. He works hard. He's not a guy that's not going to work."

Added Evans: ""I was pretty happy with my assists tonight. Being able to find guys [is] big. [Having] guys knock down shots, George, Ben. That's a good feeling because that opens up so much for us on the inside."

Evans' work helps wash some of the bitter taste of the past two games. He is averaging 10.9 points per game, second best on the team, while raising his shooting percentage to 41.1 percent from the floor.

"His shot has not been there, not just from the free throw line but he just keeps playing hard," Ryan said.

Evans wasn't the only Wisconsin big man to struggle. Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren were held to just two combined points and Wisconsin managed only six points in the paint.

On the flip side, Wisconsin held one of the Big Ten's best rebounding teams to only 29 rebounds and the conference's best offensive rebounding team (15.2 per game) to only eight rebounds and four second-chance points.

"We're all on the same page defensively and the offense is coming," said Evans. "(When) we get wins like this on the defensive end, how do you think it's going to be when we start getting the offense going?"

But with the production from some of the younger guys (Sam Dekker 10, Jackson 9, Marshall 8) and holding a Minnesota team averaging 72.2 points per game to a season-low 44, the mix might just be enough to get Wisconsin back into contention in the Big Ten.

"To have other guys come in and be that x-factor when the older guys are kind of struggling from the field. That's huge," Evans said. "That's a remarkable stat for younger guys to come in and be able to do that for us.

"I think we're notorious for peaking at the right time as a team and I know that's coming."

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