Brust's Buzzer Beater Still Resonates

As he watched the arc of the ball in the seconds after it left his hands, Ben Brust thought his half-court shot had a really good chance of going in. What happened next went down in Wisconsin history, and became another chapter of UW's home dominance over Michigan.

MADISON - With time winding down and the game tied in overtime, Ben Brust took the handoff from Mike Bruesewitz beyond the perimeter, took two dribbles to his right, squared up in front of Michigan's Caris LeVert and hit a clutch 3-pointer with just over 40 seconds left.

Nobody talks about, or frankly remembers, that 3-pointer that propelled an unranked Wisconsin team to its biggest home win of the season – a 65-62 victory over No.3 Michigan last season that sent the student storming the court on that February afternoon.

When people see Brust, they want to ask him about the play that happened five minutes earlier; a half-court buzzer beater that has 10 different postings on YouTube with over 183,000 combined hits.

It's a play that will likely be replayed again in the days leading up to No.3 Wisconsin (16-1, 3-1 Big Ten) hosting first-place Michigan (12-4, 4-0) Saturday evening at the Kohl Center.

"Ben's shot will be replayed forever," said sophomore Sam Dekker. "Those are the things that only come around once in awhile."

To recap, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. had just hit a difficult 3-pointer from the top of the key, with Bruesewitz closely defending, giving Michigan a 60-57 lead with 2.4 seconds. In the timeout that followed, coach Bo Ryan called for one of the many scenarios the team practices throughout the year.

"He (Ryan) told us what to do," said Brust, "and we knew we had done this before."

With Bruesewitz inbounding and unguarded, Traevon Jackson – the emergency option on the play - cleared out the driving lane while Dekker ran toward the ball at midcourt, but wasn't in the best position.

Jared Berggren was an option deep in front of the UW bench but Bruesewitz was looking for Brust on the curl route, going in the direction where Jackson had been and the opposite way of Dekker. Brust was being guarded by LeVert, who was instructed to foul on the catch with the Wolverines having two fouls to give, but managed to get enough spacing where he had a window of opportunity.

Bruesewitz hit Brust just shy of the midcourt stripe, and Brust took one dribble, squared up before LeVert could foul and let it fly with 1.7 seconds left. It was perfect, barely grazing any rim on its way through the hoop.

"I knew when I let it go it was going in," said Brust. "I was like, ‘Wow it feels great. It's got a really good chance.'"

Wisconsin has made a habit of crushing Michigan's spirits at the buzzer. Two years ago, Josh Gasser banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 53-52 victory in Ann Arbor. While that shot was just beyond the 3-point arc, it shows that the Badgers' late-game drills are paying off.

Usually before every road game during the team's morning-of-game shoot around, Ryan divides the team in two – either guards against the bigs or another mixture – and the teams would race to one or two half-court shots made.

Sometimes those contests require an enormous amount of attempts before the first one is made, but Brust had no problem going one-for-one with a hand in his face while on the run. It's also why Wisconsin didn't exhibit a total loss in composure after Hardaway's clutch 3-pointer.

"A lot of times if you watch teams, it's so deflating for something like that to happen," said assistant coach Lamont Paris. "You didn't see guys do that. They came back over, got something drawn up, went out and were able to execute it. Of course it helps when the shot goes in, but I think the guys had belief that we would get a good shot from the time we left the huddle."

It also showed Brust's sense of maturity, quickly gathering his thoughts and putting the shot in the back of his mind with five more minutes left to play.

"I remember I hoped over the chairs, I sat down and said, ‘Let's not celebrate going to overtime, let's win and make it mean something,'" said Brust. "I wanted to make it ‘Cool shot, we won the game' instead of ‘Cool shot, but you guys still lost.' That made it 10 times better."

Brust will be forever known for making the shot, but his maturation process over the past two years cannot be ignored. While still a sharpshooter, making a team-best 47 3-pointers on 42.3 percent shooting, Brust's confident in putting the ball on the floor and crashing the boards has helped him rank third on the team in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (4.9).

"You are always trying to grow every game, every year," said Brust. "In the fall, spring and summer before the season, you are trying to look back and think what you have to work on. When you are practicing against your teammates, just trying to do all different things to try and get better and different things that you might not have done so well in the past."

That confidence showed in the Iowa game where Brust drove to the basket, jump stopped, pivoted and made the shot with a defender in his face.

"Two years ago those were things that were not in his repertoire," said Paris. "He's been a leader for us in the huddle, and a guy who inspires by how he plays."

Brust was one of the outspoken players following Wisconsin's 3-point loss at Indiana on Tuesday, dropping the Badgers from the ranks of the unbeatens. Frustrated by the team's inability to stop the Hoosiers' penetration into the lane, giving up 52 points in the paint, Brust wanted to make his trip down memory lane a short one.

"It was definitely fun but in this league you've got to move on to the next game and what's after that," he said. "It was good to get the win, obviously, taking care of business in overtime, but you've got more games to get after."

But should Wisconsin need more late-game heroics Saturday or for the rest of the season, everyone in the arena will know where the ball is going.

"He's going to be our guys for that for eternity," said Paris, "at least until he graduates."

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