For at least one game, UW freshman Josh Gasser alleviated the worries in the backcourt with ease.
The Port Washington native poured in 21 points on five-of-eight shooting, led the team with nine rebounds and chipped in three assists against just one turnover as the Badgers took down Prairie View A&M 99-55 Sunday night. Most impressively, Gasser reached the free throw line 10 times (making nine) and collected six offensive rebounds.
The 21 points were the second most ever for a freshman making their debut at Wisconsin, trailing just Rashard Griffith in the record books.
With only Jon Leuer (24 points) and Jordan Taylor (20 points) automatic to provide points on any given night, the presence of a third scorer would open up UW's offense and ease pressure off the Big Two.
"The nice part about Josh is, he does have versatility," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "So he'll have some more games where he will be that threat. He will get rebounds, make good decisions, move the ball … that is what we are hoping for."
While he shined on one side of the court, Gasser learned quickly how much quicker the college game is defensively. Guarding the Panthers leading scorer Trant Simpson, Gasser saw the three-point bomber hit three straight threes during a first half run after Gasser didn't close out quickly enough.
As he learned after Ryan yanked him from the game, you have to play well on both sides of the ball to earn consistent minutes from Bo.
"Not making a guy move off a spot or making the guy put the ball on the floor," Ryan said.
"So Josh learned a lesson there, but he did everything else pretty well."
With accolades rained down on Gasser from every angle, Taylor did his best to alleviate increased expectations on the rookie guard in the post-game press conference.
"Maybe he is the next Devin Harris or something," said Taylor before laughing.
New and Improved Bruesewitz
When asked what he was working on the off-season this summer, sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz always responded with one emphatic answer: Shooting.
A prolific rebounder, Bruesewitz did his usual work on the boards Sunday night collecting six missed shots in just 19 minutes of play. Spotting up on the perimeter, however, Bruesewitz also nailed all three 3-pointers he attempted, providing a great outlet for Taylor's team high six assists.
"For a while it looked like he was Bohannon out there," Taylor said. "He didn't touch the rim, all swishes."
After the three-point barrage in the second half, Bruesewitz flashed his high basketball I.Q. by pump faking a charging defender and sliding into the lane for a layup. He pulled the same move minutes later and this time dished off to Leuer for a one-handed dunk.
"With the team we have this year we are going to have to do it by committee, there is no question," Ryan said.
"Bruesewitz is the kind of guy that can shot fake, put in on the floor and pull up or knock down wide open threes."
Smith get's the start
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has always valued a work ethic over pure talent. He once again reaffirmed that belief by starting senior walk-on Wquinton Smith for the first time Sunday night.
And it wasn't just a reward for practice hustle. Smith figures prominently into the backcourt rotation as Wilson recovers from a hamstring injury this season. He chipped in five rebounds (all offensive) and three assists in 17 minutes against the Panthers, creating an effective tandem with Taylor at the two guard spots.
"He is just hungry to contribute," Ryan said.
The 99 points were the most Wisconsin has scored since Dec. 28 1995 when the Badgers put up 105 against Eastern Illinois. … Both Duje Dukan and Ben Brust scored in their career debut. … The Badger PR crew introduced a knew time-out gimmick, creating a "Bruesewitz hair cam." The Jumbotron would show fans and super-impose a ginger-afro onto their heads to much applause.