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December 13, 2010MADISON - Mike Bruesewitz may not have the prettiest jump shot, the flashiest handles or the most polished skill set, but two things are certain.
One: He has the most desire to play solid basketball out of anybody on the squad.
Two: If his head of hair prevents other teams from respecting his game, that had better change.
The sophomore forward finished with a career-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting in UW's 70-56 win over Green Bay, and played an instrumental win that completed the sweep of fellow in-state schools.
"I said before the game that he's the X-factor of this team," Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle said. "He really is. I told them that I'd like to see him beat us and if he could beat us. If we could take away from Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer - obviously we didn't do that - but I'd like to see if he could beat us.
"He proved tonight that he could beat people."
That's not an exaggeration either.
Bruesewitz scored from the paint, from the perimeter and above the rim en route to his best offensive performance as a collegiate player. He shot 75 percent from the field and hit 2-of-4 shots from distance. As usual, he reeled in a fair share of boards (four) and took care of the ball as he finished with only one turnover in 31 minutes of play.
"He's got energy," UW head coach Bo Ryan said following the win. "Sometime it gets away from him in some decisions but I'd rather have to tone somebody down than get them excited about what they're doing. Guys like that have always been able to play for me. It's intelligent aggression and being active.
"Without his play, we would not be the team we are right now."
That being a 7-2-basketball team with only one non-conference tilt remaining before the meat of a Big Ten schedule. But before Wisconsin looked forward to Coppin State, it had to get by a feisty Green Bay squad that wouldn't give up, even after falling behind 18 points in the second half.
Alec Brown, a 7-foot-1 center, shot 8-of-11 from the field, scored 18 points and ripped down eight rebounds in one of the better efforts in the game. His senior teammate Rahmon Fletcher also chipped in 18 points, but ran into foul trouble along the way.
In doing so, Green Bay let a competitive game slip away during the final five minutes of the opening half.
"I thought the last five minutes in the first half, where we broke down defensively and we took a few bad shots, killed our rhythm," Wardle said. "Now we're down 11 or 12, I don't even remember what it was at halftime. They're a good defensive team so I told them our shot selection is going to be key tonight.
"Unfortunately for those five minutes, I really thought it hurt us."
Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil also hurt the Phoenix, who slipped to 4-7 on the year.
Leuer, averaging 20 points per game entering the contest, finished with 22 points on 50 percent shooting, including a 3-for-4 tally from beyond the arc. Nankivil, like Leuer, hit numerous three-point bombs en route to scoring a season high 16 points.
Overall, the Badgers shot 10-of-17 from downtown.
"Our points per possession was pretty good," Ryan said. "We got to the line and for the most part we hit them. Our three-point shot selection was excellent."
But the story, outside of Leuer and Nankivil dominating a smaller Green Bay squad, was Bruesewitz. He did everything the Badgers needed him to do and continues to take strides towards being a legitimate third scoring threat for a team that relies consistently on inconsistent scorers.
"Anytime we can get production and good things happen like (it did for) Mike and Keaton tonight, it's just another dimension for our team," Leuer, who also logged eight rebounds, said. "We had multiple guys scoring in double figures, we had four tonight, that just puts pressure on the defense. You don't know who to help off of.
"We're a pretty dynamic team when we have all these parts working."
-Jordan Taylor finished with 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and three turnovers. One of those three hiccups happened within the first 10 seconds of the game. So the junior guard essentially played the majority of the game at a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
-Outside of Taylor and the three players mentioned in the game story, only Tim Jarmusz and Josh Gasser managed to score the basketball. They each finished with two points.
-For the second time this year, Wisconsin finished a ball game with four players scoring double digits. UW last accomplished the feat in the season opener against Prairie View A&M.
-Wisconsin held Green Bay scoreless for 4 minutes, 44 seconds in the first half as part of a 7-0 run that helped it establish a margin that couldn't be overcome. UW is now 37-3 over the past two seasons when forcing a 4-minute scoring drought in a game.
-Nankivil's 18-point effort marked the third-straight game the senior finished with double-digit scoring. He also had six rebounds and four blocks in the win.
-Leuer is creeping closer to the 1,000-point plateau. The senior forward is now just 26 points shy of becoming the 36th player in Wisconsin history to reach the milestone.
Keaton Nankivil on his upcoming finals:
"I noticed one of my teachers for this semester was introduced during one of the timeouts today. I wasn't aware he was going to be introduced. I'll have to see, since we were both at the game, if that has any bearing on when the final is taking place."