Out of Hibernation

Struggling with his shot and getting down on himself, junior Brian Butch passed his exam with flying colors, registering a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds in Wisconsin's dominating victory.

MADISON, Wis. – Overrated, Over-hyped and openly criticized for not living up to the expectations of being a McDonald's All-American, junior Brian Butch has gotten his fair share of blame in past years for Wisconsin's shortcomings. Despite showing glimpses of brilliance, Butch quietly plays the role of supporting cast member to Alando Tucker.

All that changed against the No.2 Pittsburgh Panthers and on the national stage, Butch silenced his critics by taking the role of headliner.

Butch couldn't be stopped during the second part of the first half that saw the Badgers score on seven straight and 12 out of 14 possessions down the stretch. Whether it was a perimeter jumper or grinding it out in the post, Butch scored 14 of his 20 first-half points during that span, finishing the game with a career-high 27 points in leading the Badgers to a convincing victory over Pittsburgh.

More importantly, he kicked the proverbial monkey off his back and well into the upper deck of the Kohl Center.

What makes his performance even more remarkable is that despite every Wisconsin fan knowing it was far and away his best game of his collegiate career, the man himself wasn't too sure.

"I dunno," Butch responded when asked the question. "I just try to go out there and play hard every time."

It wasn't long before Butch was interrupted by a throng of laughter coming from the seats to his right.

Apparently, teammates Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker, who accompanied Butch to the media room, didn't agree with the big man's critique of himself.

"I'm going to go ahead and give you a real answer to that question," Tucker said with a laugh. "For us to see him do the things he was doing in the first half, that's big for us. A couple practices ago, he was struggling on his confidence. The coaches were riding him to try and get the best out of him and I kept telling him to just play your game. This is definitely one of the biggest games I have ever seen Brian play."

The way Butch started the game looked like the junior was going to continue his quiet, but consistent, play for the Badgers. Coming into the game averaging less than 10 points per contest, Butch scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in the first ten minutes.

That quickly changed during that Badger scoring spurt, as Butch found the bottom of the net four times during Wisconsin's seven straight scoring possessions.

Despite the short jumpers working, Butch knew that he was in for a good day when he hit only his third three of the year in 14 tries.

"Once that three went, and I haven't had many this year, I was pretty happy," Butch said. "Mickey Perry and I joke about how I just need one to go down and I'm going to get going."

Butch was far from done in the first half, scoring on Wisconsin's last three possessions, including hitting another three pointer, to cap a 20-9 Wisconsin run to end the half and give Wisconsin a 10-point margin at the break.

With Butch and Tucker having 40 of Wisconsin's 47 points at halftime, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon felt that his team had run into Butch at the worst time.

"When two guys have 20 at the half, you're in a tough situation," Dixon said. "Obviously, he shot the ball well, shot it better than he has shot it. We didn't plan to leave him as open a couple times as we did, but he made some shots.

"He's a McDonalds All-American and a big time player," he added. "He was a guy who stretched us out defensively. Making those shots really gave them another advantage that helped them out."

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, much like Dixon, was a tad surprised by Butch's scoring output in the first half, especially since Butch had already eclipsed his career high in points (his previous bests were 23 against Norfolk State and at Penn State last season) in just 14 minutes on the court.

"You're not supposed to be surprised as a coach," Ryan said. "But the thing is, Brian is capable at times. He's talented enough that if he can get those looks, he can get a side step or a left hand jump hook. He practices those shots in order to make them in a game. He works hard and when he gets the opportunity, it's nice to see him make them."

While his scoring dimensioned in the second half, Butch's aggressiveness on the boards did not. Butch corralled five rebounds in the second, giving him 11 for the game, and dished three assists. More importantly, Butch connected from the free throw line, going 9-for-12 in the game.

"[Brian] did a little bit of everything," Ryan said. "It wasn't just the shooting. Brian had a complete game."

"Everybody in the country wanted him [coming out of high school] and he played like it tonight," Dixon added. "He's a big kid, plays hard and you guys should be proud of him. He deserves it."

While the soft-spoken Butch registered his second double-double of the year and the Badgers beat a No.2 ranked team for just the third time in school history, Butch stuck with M.O., remaining humble about his own personnel accomplishments and giving credit to the team first.

"It's an honor to wear the Wisconsin jersey and our main goal is just to play hard as a team," Butch said. "We realize that we are a team that has a lot of key parts to it. Our goal is just to keep on getting better. Our goal is March."

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