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December 10, 2011MADISON - With a wry grin and a gentle jab, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan poked a bit of fun at his sharp shooting sophomore Ben Brust.
It happened just minutes after Brust tied a school record by stroking seven 3-point attempts in a 62-51 win over UNLV.
"I think he does that in his sleep," Ryan said.
The 'Madison Microwave' paced the Badgers with a career-high 25 points. He hit all seven shots he took from distance and he overtook Jordan Taylor as UW's leading scorer.
"That's how shooters are," Ryan explained. "There's no question you want players to be consistent, you want people to shoot 40 percent from 3-point range every night. Some nights it might be zero percent and some nights it might be 100 percent.
"He does stretch defenses and he does need to be guarded."
Apparently other teams, namely UNLV, aren't aware of that notion.
Brust hit shots when he was wide-open, he hit shots with a hand in his face, and he hit shots with a brand new shot clock and one that was winding down.
He made shots without a conscious.
More surprisingly, Brust hit all seven of his shots after a stretch where he hit just 3-of-13 over UW's past three games.
"You've got to have shooter's amnesia," Brust, who now averages a team-best 12.6 points per game, said. "Just let it go and keep firing until you can shoot out of it."
A game touted as another clash of styles - - UNLV averaged 83 points per game entering Saturday's contest - - it was Brust's hot shooting and an overall stellar defensive performance that helped the Badgers overcome a paltry 37 percent shooting effort, including an 0-for-10 performance from senior guard Jordan Taylor.
Mike Bruesewitz (10 rebounds), Ryan Evans (9) and Josh Gasser (8) collected 27 of UW's 34 rebounds and Wisconsin edged the Rebels in that regard, 34-32, including a 10-5 mark on the offensive glass.
"We felt like we needed to get back to controlling the glass," Bruesewitz, who also chipped in six points, an assist and a steal, said. "That results in wins. A lot of times team's that win the battle of the boards usually win.
"Offensively we just had guys going to the glass and the ball bounced our way a little bit."
UW's stifling defense - - one that has held nine of its 10 opponents to their scoring low this season - - provided the energy and punch to beat a frustrated and lifeless UNLV squad, particularly in the early going.
"I'm really disappointed with the way that we started the game," Rebels head coach Dave Rice said. "I'm not pleased at all with our execution on either end of the floor.
"There are no excuses, we've just got to play better and execute better. We've got to get tougher."
Following a pair of free throws from Rebel big man Brice Massamba with just over 10 minutes left in the opening frame, Wisconsin's defense squeezed UNLV into a six-minute scoring drought.
During that time UW amassed a 13-0 run, capped by a Gasser long-range bomb to open a 16-point lead it wouldn't relinquish. UNLV eventually chipped that margin to single digits, but for every run the Rebels enjoyed, Brust had a deep splash waiting for them as a rebuttal.
"Ben was moving away from the ball and finding soft spots," Ryan said. "He's really good at that. He moves better away from the ball than anyone we have. As a result, he gets wide open looks."
Sometimes he was so wide-open he took ill-advised shots.
With his team up eight and with a chance to milk some of the waning game clock with 35 seconds of shot clock to play with, Brust caught Evans' pass following an offensive rebound and hoisted.
Though Ryan said he allows that type of shot - - a pass from the block to an open perimeter shooter - - he would have liked to have seen Brust pull it out and work the shot clock, especially considering the score and the explosive nature of UNLV's offense.
Instead Brust drilled his seventh 3-pointer of the afternoon, Wisconsin went up 11 and kept it that way, improving its record to 9-2 on the season.
"I didn't hesitate," Brust said. "I probably should have, but coach always preaches to shoot the kick-outs so I shot the kick-out."
Chace Stanback paced UNLV with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but it wasn't nearly enough for a Runnin' Rebels squad that never found any sort of offensive flow en route to a 37 percent shooting effort.
"We need to start games much better with a lot more energy," Rice said. "Particularly on the road at a place like Wisconsin, where they're 152-12 under Coach Ryan. They're big, they're tough and they're strong.
"We need to be more aggressive and play with more confidence at the start of the game."
During the early stages of Saturday's game it was apparent UNLV was dead-set on keeping the ball out of Jordan Taylor's hands. Often times they'd double-team Taylor on the inbounds pass and shadow him relentlessly whenever he was moving without the ball in the frontcourt.
From the very first shot Taylor took - - a clanker that hit nothing but backboard - - it was clear Taylor's shot wasn't on.
"They did a good job of doing that," Taylor said. "Whatever they were doing, it worked."
Taylor finished Saturday's contest with an 0-for-10 shooting effort and a noticeable limp. When asked whether Taylor was nicked up during any portion of the second half, Ryan simply said it was too early to know whether there were any injuries.
"His shot wasn't going," Ryan said. "He did get fouled shooting a three because that's what the defense gave us at the time. They weren't giving us very much. Both teams were very stingy. You have to credit UNLV's defense. They're tough to score on.
"Jordan will be fine. He'll just get ready for the next one."
-Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan became the third-fastest Big Ten coach to reach 250 career wins (343 games) with Saturday's win. Only Bob Knight (327) and Ward Lambert (331) reached the milestone faster.
-Ryan also has the second-best winning percentage (.729) all-time among Big Ten coaches with at least 250 wins. Only Bob Knight (.734) had a better percentage. Ryan is also just the 13th coach to reach the 250-win plateau in Big Ten history.
-Wisconsin has now won 43-straight non-conference games against unranked opponents. It has also held each of its past 14 foes to 65 points or fewer, dating back to last year.
-UNLV had been held under 30 points in a half only twice this season. It failed to top the 30-point mark in either half Saturday afternoon.
-Ryan Evans hauled in nine rebounds, a new career high. He also chipped in seven points, three assists and two steals. He is currently UW's leading rebounder (6.7 rebounds per game) and fourth leading scorer (9.6 points).
-Bruesewitz's 10 rebounds established a new career high.
-Freshman center Evan Anderson played two minutes during the first half of Wisconsin's win over UNLV.
-Freshman center Frank Kaminsky scored five points in 12 minutes of play.
Wisconsin finishes its in-state tour when it heads to UW-Milwaukee to take on Rob Jeter's Panthers.