The Polar Bear Cometh

Registering more points than fouls in Friday's matchup against Michigan, senior Brian Butch bounces back by leading Wisconsin with 19 points in a two-point win over Michigan State.

INDIANAPOLIS – Brian Butch knew that things could only improve.

Going 0-for-7 from the floor and scoring a single point in UW's quarterfinal victory, Butch knew that his presence was going to be vital if the Badgers were to move into Sunday's championship game

As it turns out, the senior knew exactly what he was talking about.

Butch produced in the post, from the perimeter and from the free throw line, leading the Badgers with 19 points in Wisconsin's 65-63 come-from-behind victory Sunday over Michigan State and will play Illinois, who defeated Minnesota 54-50, Sunday.

"You have games like that and you have to put it behind you," he said. "I am glad that I came out and hit the first shot of the game and got me on a roll. Today and yesterday were too different days."

It also helped the Badgers picked up Butch offensively against Michigan, only to give him some good natured ribbing afterwards.

"I told him he set the record for the only guy going 0-for-19," head coach Bo Ryan said. "One guy went 0-for-18, and you're 0-for-19, Brian. No, he was one under. I said, you missed the record by one. I didn't realize he was only 0-for-7. That's what we said to him yesterday. We don't want him to get real happy with himself right now either. We've got a lot to do."

Struggling to finish around the basket Friday, Butch seemingly was always in the right place at the right time against the Spartans. He was instrumental in Wisconsin scoring 15 second chance points, he was aggressive in grabbing seven rebounds and he was a threat from the perimeter, all helping bring UW back from the depths.

He drew a foul on a three-point attempt (making the subsequent free throws) and knocked down a wide-open three to cut the lead to one, igniting his teammates during that pivotal stretch.

"We had to do what we had to do and keep on battling, finding ways to get a win," Butch said. "As seniors, you don't want to go out like that. Today was a good step."

Comparing Butch to Georgetown's Roy Hibbert, who scored no points against Villanova in the Big East Tournament quarterfinal only to come back and score a season-high 25 points in the semifinals, Ryan knew that his senior leader was going to rebound.

"(I) figured if he could do it, Brian could do it," Ryan said. "Brian went from AWOL and then Medal of Honor."

It wasn't just Butch that ignited the Badgers. Living up to their philosophy, the Badgers chipped away at MSU's 12-point lead with three-pointers, free throws, lay-ups and post shots.

More importantly, the production came from everybody, something that is going to continue to serve Wisconsin well down the stretch.

"You have to sit and watch how we chipped away and the different ways that we got it done," Ryan said. "There were contributions from everybody, not one guy. You go right down the line with every game. That's the way we've played all year. I hope we have some more in us."


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