MADISON, Wis. — Years from now, when fans reflect on Ben Brust’s career as a Wisconsin basketball player, they will remember both his fearlessness and willingness to take shots from a distance that would make most coaches cringe. His range is as deep as any player’s in the country this season, but it has its limitations.
At least, it seemed that way until Saturday, when Brust stretched the boundaries of those limitations by swishing a running 40-foot shot at the buzzer to send a game into overtime. His miraculous 3-pointer helped Wisconsin eventually upset No. 3 Michigan, 65-62, in the extra session at the Kohl Center and sent students rushing onto the court in celebration.
“People were putting hats on me,” Brust said. “I was like, ‘Where did this come from?’ It was awesome. Something I’ll remember forever and I’m sure a lot of people will.”
Brust’s are-you-kidding-me 3-pointer came after Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. drilled what seemed to be a backbreaking 3 with 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation, which temporarily gave Michigan a 60-57 lead.
Following a timeout, Brust received a pass from Badgers forward Mike Bruesewitz while moving toward halfcourt. He took one step past the line and buried the shot over the outstretched arms of Wolverines guard Caris LeVert.
“Our guys are smart enough to reel themselves in,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “But it’s nice being between 18 and 22 and having something like that happen. For some of these guys, that’s the first time that’s ever happened to them maybe in a game like that.”
Michigan coach John Beilein said the plan was for LeVert to foul Brust because the Wolverines had two fouls to give before putting Wisconsin into the bonus. But Brust beat LeVert by a step and wiggled free for the shot.
Beilein had no choice but to offer his stunned Wolverines a pep talk in the huddle amid the mayhem.
“You’re always picking them up in overtime,” Beilein said. “You’re always saying something, even if you’re lying like crazy. ‘Guys, we got them where we want them right now. We’re in better shape.’
“The eye contact, you’ve got to pick them up, look them in the eye. I can’t say they were enthused about going into overtime, but at the same time, I thought we played really well in overtime.”
Despite Michigan’s best efforts, it was yet another Brust 3-pointer over LeVert — this time from a mere 25-feet out — that felled the Wolverines in overtime. Brust’s long ball gave Wisconsin the lead for good at 65-62 with 43 seconds left.
“To be able to win the game in overtime makes it that much sweeter,” Brust said. “Just happy to get a good team win. We still know there’s a lot more games left to play in this Big Ten season. We’re right in the hunt still, so just got to stay after it.”
The impact of Wisconsin’s victory surely will be felt in both the Big Ten and across the country.
Michigan entered the day with an opportunity to take over the No. 1 ranking in the next Associated Press top 25 poll — although such lofty status hasn’t necessarily been a good thing this season. The top-ranked team in the country has lost in five consecutive weeks, including Michigan falling to Indiana last week.
This week, No. 1 Indiana, No. 2 Florida and Michigan lost, which means No. 4 Duke could leapfrog into the top spot for a third time.
The Badgers’ performance also created even more chaos in the Big Ten, which no longer features a clear-cut favorite with one month remaining in the regular season. Both Michigan (21-3, 8-3) and Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3) are tied for third in the conference, a half-game behind Indiana and Michigan State.
Considering Wisconsin was left for dead when starting point guard Josh Gasser suffered a season-ending ACL tear in late October, the turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable.
“It’s a good thing I don’t have Twitter or Facebook because I’m hearing enough from emails and text messages about you guys aren’t that good,” Ryan said of his team. “It feels good, though. I’m so proud of these guys. This is a group that just finds different ways. And they’re great to have in practice, too. They’re working it. They’re trying.”
Brust, who has led the Badgers in scoring for three consecutive games, finished Saturday’s contest with a team-best 14 points and made four 3-pointers. None bigger, of course, then his halfcourt heave.
“If we lose this game,” Bruesewitz said, “that shot just goes on SportsCenter’s top 10 and then we kind of all forget about it.”
They won’t. Instead, Brust’s shot — and the victory — will be remembered in Wisconsin lore for quite some time.