Healing for the Stretch Run

After grinding through 45 minutes against a border rival, No.21 Wisconsin will get six days off before facing their next opponent. If Michigan State thinks the Badgers are going to be stale when UW travels to East Lansing, history shows that just the opposite is true.

MINNEAPOLIS - To say Mike Bruesewitz and his teammates were giddy following another road victory in the Big Ten doesn't do their reaction justice. To say Bruesewitz and his teammates are grinding through a rough stretch is an understatement to the same degree.

"My whole body is not feeling very good right now," said Bruesewitz. "But that's ok. I'll go see (trainer Henry Perez-Guerra) and things will be copasetic."

Things are definitely delightful for No.21 Wisconsin after rebounding from its disappointing six-point loss against Ohio State Saturday to win its fourth road game in a row – 68-61 at Minnesota Thursday. It's UW's longest road winning streak since winning seven in a row away from home in the 2007-08 season.

Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) improved to 19-0 this season when leading or tied with 5:00 remaining, but the Badgers had to work for it, as Minnesota caught fire to score the final 10 points of regulation and nearly won with two game-winning attempts in the final seconds.

"They hit some tough shots, we were trying to get to the free throw line, we were trying to get some open looks, they stepped up their defense and they really got into us," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Minnesota's late run. "The fact that we were able to stop them on that last one was huge."

Those stops coupled with the Badgers making 15 of their 17 free throws in overtime give them a week to prepare for its rematch with No.11 Michigan State (19-5, 8-3). Wisconsin will practice just once over the next three days but if anyone is worried UW won't carry its momentum, it hasn't seen the impressive streak Ryan has of preparing his players.

Under Ryan, Wisconsin is 25-2 in the regular season when having at least six days off between games. The Badgers traditionally take extended time off for exams, resulting in a non-marquee nonconference opponent following the break, but the Badgers have beaten No.23 Marquette, No.6 Duke and No.9 Texas with extended prep time.

Still, Wisconsin has taken the odd scheduling quirks of the Big Ten in stride.

Following a 61-50 loss at No.6 Michigan State in February 2010, Wisconsin had a week to stew, rest and prepare for a home game against Michigan, which ended up being a 60-55 UW victory.

Later that same season following Wisconsin's early dismissal in the Big Ten Tournament at the hands of Ohio State, the Badgers had a week to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, which resulted in a 61-59 overtime victory against fifth-seed Florida State.

Before that, Wisconsin had a seven-day break between conference games seven times –Feb. 2002, Jan. 2003, twice in Jan.-Feb. 2004, Feb.2005, and Feb. 2006 – and the Badgers responded with a 4-2 record following the time off.

UW hasn't lost after having at least a six day layoff since losing to Northwestern in February 2006, a span of 11 straight games (13 including two opening round NCAA Tournament victories).

"Anytime you can get a couple days off, it's going to help you, especially in the grind of the Big Ten season," said sophomore Josh Gasser. "We go at in practice, we go at it in games so any time you can get a couple days to rest your bodies … I've said it before, nobody is really 100 percent this time of year. To get a couple days off to get close to 100 percent and get your body refreshed a little bit, it's going to help."

Ryan said the big goal over the next six days is managing the practice reps and protecting the players' legs from getting overworked with only six conference games left to play. He'll stick to plan of decreasing the number of possessions in practice and preventing his players from getting stale, but don't expect Wisconsin to take a vacation … not with March around the corner.

"Disney World is out (this weekend)," said Ryan. "We're still going to work it. We've got a lot of edges we're trying to smooth."


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