"We didn't have much experience coming into the season at the guard spots," said senior Ryan Evans, who registered his third double-double of the season in the Badgers' 87-51 blasting of Samford Saturday. "Just the teams that we played, like Arkansas and Marquette, that pressure is huge moving forward into the Big Ten season.
"Our guards are adapting and they have adapted to a certain extent but they have a ways to go. But I mean, with the improvement that they've shown so far that's great. And like I've said, the nonconference play has really helped us prepare for the Big Ten season."
Senior forward Mike Bruesewitz was back in the starting lineup since suffering a concussion in early December and made the most of his time on the court. Bruesewitz slammed home his first points on an uncontested drive right down the lane, made his first six field goals and finished with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
"He (Bruesewitz) just brings so much energy and his teammates are comfortable with him from the standpoint they he's going to play hard all the time," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Bruesewitz, who added four rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. We didn't have that in some games. I think when Mike gets in there and mixes things up I think he affects his teammates."
Added Evans: "To see him get that confidence going is great, it made me feel good and the rest of the team [also] because he's someone we're definitely going to need in the Big Ten Conference."
With Samford (3-11) only had two players taller than 6-6 or taller on its roster, Bruesewitz and Wisconsin's huge size advantage held Samford to shot only 21 percent shooting in the first half (6-for-28) and 35.3 percent for the game.
"We had a few open layups that I think we should have made, but again their size affects a lot of things," said Samford coach Bennie Seltzer. "They got a few blocks…they're unlike any team we've played this year in terms of their size."
With conference play starting Thursday with a home matchup against Penn State, Ryan used his rotation well and gave some minutes to sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky early. He shook off his early season struggles by posting a career-high 16 points, his third-career game scoring in double figures, and tallied a career-best four three-pointers (4-for-4 shooting).
"I think it's all about consistency," said Kaminsky. "At times I get a little inconsistent and get down on myself, the last couple game I've just been trying to come out and just play and not worry about anything and that's what I did today. I kept shooting it and it kept falling."
UW used its size advantage to out-hustled and out-rebounded the Bulldogs, owning a 43-22 edge on the glass, 32-18 in the paint, has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 21-6 and got 33 points of the bench.
Evans was a major factor on the boards on both ends, as five of his career-high 12 rebounds came on the offensive glass. Evans also shot 4-for-6 from the free throw line.
"I can't tell the future, but I definitely feel a lot more confident up there," Evans said about his confidence at the line. "I relieved a lot of stress. I definitely felt more comfortable up there today."
Bruesewitz replaced freshman Sam Dekker in the starting lineup, but Dekker still finished the game with 14 points (3-for-4 from three-point range) four rebounds and four assists off the bench.
"Sam understands," said Ryan. "Mike's paid his dues, so Sam's still going to do a good job off the bench. Everybody on the team likes the fact that Mike's out there."