With the run the Badgers have put together over the past two weeks, even a bad shooting night isn't going to keep this group down when everyone seems to contribute in different ways.
Ben Brust hit the big shots, Mike Bruesewitz got the big rebounds and Jared Berggren got the big blocks, all of which helped turn a game with 10 lead changes finally in their favor in a 57-50 victory over No.16 Indiana Thursday.
Not only do they have their first five-game winning streak in Big Ten play since Feb. 5-19, 2009 and their ninth straight win over the Hoosiers, the Badgers showed for the second time on their torrid stretch that it can win games when it gets outshot by their opponent.
"Our players played hard, our players bought in," said UW coach Bo Ryan, who improved to 15-3 all-time versus Indiana. "Great example of that is tonight. This team has a lot of fight in it. I just like the grit in this group."
How could he not, especially on a night where senior point guard Jordan Taylor goes 5 of 14 from the field and 0 of 5 from three-point range? Wisconsin (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten) certainly didn't shoot well, finishing at 39.6 percent, but got Ben Brust to hit the big shots when they needed him to.
Even when his shooting was at a worse for wear, an 8-for-26 slump during UW's skid, Brust just kept firing. He knew it had to come eventually. After all, he was too good of a shooter not to find his groove.
But after showing he was more than a three-point marksman at Illinois – the first time he scored at least nine points a game without hitting a three-pointer – on Sunday, Brust went back to his comfort zone, hitting three three-pointers for the sixth time this season, but just the second time in Big Ten play. They came at the right time.
With Indiana (16-5, 4-5) threatening to pull away up five, Brust hit a three-pointer from the corner and came back three minutes later to hit another triple, giving UW a 41-39 lead with 9:22 to go.
He was also active in the paint - cutting through the lane to get a perfect pass from Bruesewitz that resulted in a wide-open layup on the right block – and opportunistic on the glass, grabbing his own offensive rebound with 1:34 remaining and UW leading 51-50.
"He knows how to move away from the ball," Ryan said. "He does a great job of spacing. He does a great job of cutting. Next thing you know he finds himself open. It's not by accident. He's very aware of where he is on the floor and what he's trying to get accomplished."
That eventually led to a pair of Ryan Evans' free throws - two of his perfect 8-for-8 performance from the line and two of Wisconsin going 12-for-12 from the line after starting 3-for-7 - after he grabbed an offensive rebound. Evans finished with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
In the final 3:36, the Hoosiers didn't have a rebound, as the Badgers grabbed the last seven boards of the game, or made a three-pointer in the final 5:39, a big surprise coming from a team that ranked second in the country in three-point shooting percentage (44.9 percent).
"They got a couple rebounds at crucial times," said Indiana coach Tom Crean, who got 12 points each from Verdell Jones and Christian Watford but saw his team fall to 2-30 in conference road games under his watch. "We were in position to win and just didn't finish it."
Indiana might have pulled it off if it wasn't for the defensive tandem on true freshman Cody Zeller from Bruesewitz and Berggren.
Zeller has been a tough player to stop for most teams with him averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game and leading the country with a 65.9 field-goal percentage, but he struggled against the more experienced Berggren, as Wisconsin's junior was able to register three of his five blocks on the freshman and get him into foul trouble early.
Playing just nine minutes in the first half, Zeller had no points, one rebound, one block and two fouls, and he didn't fare much better against Bruesewitz late. With Indiana down three, Bruesewitz went straight up with Zeller on a short jumper, forcing an air ball with 51 seconds left.
That play became larger when Bruesewitz grabbed an offensive rebound off a Taylor miss with 22 seconds left on the ensuing possession and made both free throws to effectively seal the game.
In 19 minutes, Zeller was held to seven points on 2 of 7 shooting, as Crean said after that he, "had no real reason to believe (Zeller) was going to get into a flow."
"I had to limit his touches, and just try to battle with him," Berggren said. "Just try to make everything difficult for him and I was able to come up with a couple blocks."
The rewards now is that Wisconsin gets the weekend off before heading on the road – where the Badgers are 4-2 this season – to take on Penn State Tuesday.
"We just had to keep believing that we have a good team," Berggren said. "We really believe that. Despite the struggles at the start of the Big Ten, we knew what we had here. We knew we had guys that weren't going to give up easy. We have turned things around and scratched and clawed back into things."