Brust carries Badgers to rout of Gophers

Evidently motivated by his last opportunity to win a Big Ten championship, senior guard Ben Brust scored a career-high 29 points to push No.12 Wisconsin to a wire-to-wire 83-57 victory over border-rival Minnesota Friday night in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal.

INDIANAPOLIS – Senior leadership is imperative to survive March's madness. Wisconsin will be in for a deep postseason run if it has senior guard Ben Brust playing at his best.

Brust recorded a career-high in scoring with 29 points, leading No.12 Wisconsin into the Big Ten tournament semifinals with an 83-57 victory over Minnesota.

Wisconsin (26-6) shot 64 percent in the second half – 54.5 percent for the game – and put four players in double figures, but the Badgers' well-balanced offense didn't need much help aside from Brust.

"As long as we get the win, that's all that matters here in March," said Brust, who went 8-for-15 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the free throw line. "I came out and things started falling I just wanted to play with energy."

Wisconsin's scoring is often spread throughout the stat sheet, with four of its starters averaging double-figure totals. Yet, the Badgers had starters Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson go scoreless, and got a season-high 38 bench points thanks to Nigel Hayes' 15 points (13 in the second half) and Bronson Koenig's career-high 14.

However, Friday's victory was all about one guy—the Badgers' senior leader.

"[Brust is] a hard matchup for some guys defensively because of the way he moves," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

Hayes was a little bit more upfront in addressing Brust's big game.

"I just want my children to be like him," Hayes joked.

Although Wisconsin delivered its highest scoring output since January 8, stifling defense is what helped key the victory. Minnesota (20-13) was held to just 32.8 percent from the field. The Golden Gophers were led by Deandre Mathieu's 18 points, while Joey King chipped in with 14. However, their offense was relatively quiet for most of the game, since UW limited Gophers' leading scorer Andre Hollins (14.4 ppg) to eight points on 2-for-14 shooting.

"When we're winning, it's because our defense is doing well," said sophomore Sam Dekker. "We're focused, we have high energy on that end of the floor and it translates well into the offense."

The outcome was never in question for Wisconsin. The closest Minnesota would cut the lead in the second half was eight, coming with 17:46 remaining. When the Gophers made a 7-0 push to cut the lead to 10 with just over nine minutes to go, it was Brust connecting on a long three-pointer that help cushion the lead. Wisconsin finished the game outscoring the Gophers by a 33-17 mark.

With the win, Wisconsin advances to the Big Ten Tournament's semifinals for the third consecutive season, aiming third tournament title under head coach Bo Ryan. The Badgers will meet the winner of Michigan State and Northwestern, matching immediately after Wisconsin's win.

In typical Ryan fashion, he's not letting the Badgers turn their attention past Saturday.

"We've gained the right to play another 40 minutes, in Indianapolis, in the Big Ten Tournament," he said. "That's all [Friday's] game meant now. They're looking forward to another 40 minutes."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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