KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wisconsin guard Zak Showalter dribbled down court during practice on Wednesday and spotted an open teammate cutting to the basket. Instincts, naturally, told him to zip a pass through the defense so the scout team could score two points against the Badgers’ starters.
He did … only to find himself reprimanded and briefly pulled from the floor.
If that reaction doesn’t sound much like Wisconsin basketball, that’s because it isn’t the typical response. But when your job is to imitate Ole Miss gunner Marshall Henderson, the rules of the game change considerably.
“We just knew he was going to catch and shoot from wherever he was,” Showalter said. “That’s what we tried to do all week.”
Henderson and No. 12 seed Ole Miss play No. 5 seed Wisconsin at 11:40 a.m. CT Friday at Sprint Center.
Showalter and guard Jordan Smith rotated emulating Henderson every few minutes this week, in part because of the sheer exhaustion of firing any 3-point shot within sight. Henderson has taken more 3s than any player in the country, and 72.3 percent of his total shots come from long range.
“This was real intense,” Smith said. “We were told to shoot from anywhere. Shoot fadeaways off screens from 30 feet. They literally just said, ‘If you can see the rim, shoot it. If you can’t see the rim, shoot it. If you’re a little bit open, shoot it.’ I got taken out a couple times for passing.”
A big component of the scout team’s job is to prepare the starters for what they’ll see on game day. But even with a never-ending green light, the Badgers’ reserves likely didn’t do Henderson justice. In 23 of the Rebels’ 34 games, Henderson has taken at least 10 3-pointers.
“Any glimmer of daylight, he’s pulling,” Badgers forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “But he’s earned that right. He’s proven, and he’s shown he can fill it up. You’ve got to not let him get going early and try to contain him. He’s going to hit shots. He’s done it all year. People have gunned for him all year. … He’s going to probably get his, but you’ve got to make him be as inefficient as possible.”
Henderson on Bruesewitz: Henderson expressed his admiration for Bruesewitz on Twitter earlier in the week and was asked Thursday what he liked about his game.
“I’m a huge fan of college basketball,” Henderson said. “When I’m at home, that’s all I have on TV is college basketball all the time. I just love watching it. I’ve watched Wisconsin a lot on TV. I’ve heard Bruesewitz give some of his interviews. He seems like a colorful guy. People will trash on him a lot when they go on the road and stuff. I obviously feel him on that. But he seems like a cool dude. I can’t wait to actually meet him.”
Bruesewitz, meanwhile, sounded less than thrilled about all the talk concerning he and Henderson.
“You guys have all hyped this way more than it needs to be,” Bruesewitz said. “He’s another player who happens to admire my haircut. It’s basketball, guys. It’s not about who has the bigger crush on each other or something like that.”
Jackson peaking: Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson has endured his share of struggles in his first season as the team’s starter. He has gone scoreless against Michigan State, made 1 of 10 shots against Iowa and 3 of 14 shots against Minnesota.
But, as he has already shown this season, he rose to the occasion on the big stage. During the Big Ten tournament, Jackson averaged 11 points per game and was named to the all-tournament team, along with teammate Ryan Evans. With the NCAA tournament set to begin Friday, Jackson hopes he can continue his hot streak against Ole Miss by doing a better job of blocking out his mistakes.
“It’s always a balance you have,” Jackson said Thursday. “You make a mistake, don’t make another one. Try not to make another one. You can’t stop being aggressive. That’s the biggest thing. Then you don’t play well at all. I want to be as good for this team as I can be. I just want to continue to be hard on myself, continue to get the best out of myself.”
This season, Jackson took over the starting point guard role from George Marshall after six games and has developed into a leader for Wisconsin in place of injured point guard Josh Gasser. Jackson buried game-winning shots against Minnesota and Penn State and has earned the trust of teammates in the process.
“He’s done a good job,” Badgers guard Ben Brust said. “He wants to win just as bad as everyone else. If he makes a mistake, he does a good job of forgetting about it and moving on to the next play.”
Evans talks Twitter: Badgers forward Ryan Evans suddenly introduced a Twitter account this week, and it turns out he isn’t even responsible its creation. Evans credited his younger brother, Zach, who made the account for him.
“He’s real good with technology,” Evans said.
In just four days, Evans already has amassed 3,101 followers. His latest tweet: “Livin the dream while chasin the dream. Dream with me #MarchMadness”
“I’ll use it some,” Evans said of Twitter. “I like the fact I can connect with fans and friends, really. There’s a lot of people out there that you always want to talk to, and Twitter provides that for you in one text message over the internet, so that’s neat.”