Ben Brust admits he probably shouldn’t have taken his last three-point shot.
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With Wisconsin leading UNLV by eight points and under three minutes left, the smart play might’ve been to run off some clock.
But the way Brust was shooting, who could blame him?
Brust came off the bench and hit all seven of his threes, scoring a career-high 25 points as No. 14 Wisconsin beat UNLV 62-51.
”The past three games, a lot of them felt good. They just didn’t go in,” Brust said. ”You’ve got to have shooters’ amnesia and just shoot out of it.”
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said the Badgers (8-2) understand that one of the easiest threes to hit is off an offensive rebound with a quick kick out to an open shooter. But he said they’re also supposed to take into account time and score in deciding whether to take the shot.
Ryan questioned the shot selection, but not the result.
”I think he does that in his sleep,” Ryan said, making a shooting motion. ”When he caught that, he was only thinking one thing.”
The performance snapped a shooting funk for Brust, who had hit just 3 of his last 13 threes in the previous three games.
Against UNLV, Brust missed just one shot for the game. He was perfect from three-point range, was 1 of 2 from inside the arc and made both of his free throws.
Coming in, the game looked like a matchup of a Rebels (9-2) offense averaging 83 points a game and a Wisconsin defense limiting opponents to just 44 points and shooting a shade less than 33 percent.
The Badgers’ defense showed up as advertised. But Wisconsin also worked deep into the shot clock, helping to keep the Rebels out of their running attack.
UNLV finished with just five fast break points while Wisconsin had none.
”We didn’t do a good job of execution on offense, and we lost a little bit of our defensive energy,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
Ryan said the Badgers didn’t intentionally try to slow down their offense. Rather, they took what UNLV gave them, and it wasn’t much.
”Why would you take 15 seconds to throw up a bad shot when at 28 seconds you got a pretty decent one?” Ryan said. ”We’re going to take what the defense gives us, and that’s not going to change.”
Wisconsin grabbed control in the first half with a 13-0 run that gave the Badgers a 31-15 lead. They pushed their advantage to as many as 19 in the first half before the Rebels were able to cut it to 36-23 at half.
From there, UNLV couldn’t get inside of double digits until just under four minutes left, when Justin Hawkins hit a wide open three from the corner to make it 57-49. It was the first time UNLV had been that been that close since 23-15 with seven minutes left in the first half.
But Mike Moser missed a layup on UNLV’s next possession, Brust hit a deep three after the Badgers grabbed the offensive rebound.
Chace Stanback scored 16 to lead UNLV.
Every time the Rebels appeared to have an opportunity in the second half to build some momentum, they seemed to either turn it over or take an ill-advised shot. More often than not, it seemed Wisconsin was able to capitalize on the other end with a big shot by Brust.
”I’m not pleased at all with our execution on either end of the floor,” Rice said. ”We regrouped at the half. We came out and we looked like we were supposed to in terms of our aggressiveness. There are no excuses. We’ve just got to play better and execute better. We’ve got to get tougher.”