A year later, Michigan returns to where Brust hit miracle shot
MADISON, Wis. — If Ben Brust were tasked with burying the same ridiculously difficult half-court shot he hit last year against Michigan in a game this season, the odds likely wouldn’t be in his favor.
"I’d like to think that if I was in the same situation, I’d hit it again," Brust said. "But I’ll never know."
Of course, Brust doesn’t have to know. His one opportunity last Feb. 9 created a magic moment for the ages in Wisconsin basketball, a shot replayed before every game as part of a Jumbotron package inside the Kohl Center. And with Michigan (12-4, 4-0 Big Ten) coming to town at 5 p.m. on Saturday to face No. 3 Wisconsin (16-1, 3-1), you can imagine "The Shot" was a hot topic of conversation this week.
Most Badgers fans likely remember the end result — an eventual 65-62 overtime victory against the Wolverines at the Kohl Center. But here are the particulars of Brust’s half-court heave, which unexpectedly sent the game to overtime.
The play was necessitated because Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. buried a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key despite Badgers forward Mike Bruesewitz’s hand in his face. The shot gave the Wolverines a 60-57 lead with just 2.4 seconds remaining and sucked the collective fan exuberance from the building.
Badgers coach Bo Ryan immediately called timeout — which would prove to be the difference in the game because Ryan Evans was busy trying to inbound the ball to point guard Traevon Jackson some 90 feet from the basket.
During the timeout, Ryan drew up a play his team had run in years past when faced with a similar situation. Center Jared Berggren set a pick for point guard Traevon Jackson to curl around from left to right near his own 3-point line. Berggren then took off long down the middle of the court.
Forward Sam Dekker cut from the right side of the court to the left, which created an opening for Brust to curl left to right near half-court. Bruesewitz, the inbounder under his own basket, fired a perfect strike to Brust, who caught the ball in stride, took one dribble to collect himself and heaved a shot from just inside the half-court line.
Although Michigan had a foul to give, Brust established the angle on defender Chris LeVert, making it difficult to foul without it being on the shot. And so, Brust launched over LeVert’s outstretched arm.
"There were definitely a lot of things that went together and worked out in terms of the pass, the cut, the dribble, getting squared up and not being fouled," Brust said. "There were just a lot of things that happened."
Added Badgers associate head coach Greg Gard: "You’ve got to be able to execute it. Obviously there’s a little luck involved with the shot going in. But you’ve got to put yourself in position and it starts with the pass that Mike made that was able to hit him where he didn’t have to change his footwork or didn’t have to reach back for it. Hit him right on the run."
Brust’s shot sent the game to overtime tied at 60, and chaos reigned both on the court and in the stands.
"It was a heck of a shot," Jackson said. "It went in and we were ready to play again in the overtime. I was just happy he made it. I was just like, ‘Wow,’ I remember at that moment. I was just happy he made it (and) that we got another chance to win."
Of course, Brust’s half-court shot probably wouldn’t carry the same mystique if Wisconsin had not won the game. Brust ensured the victory by drilling a 3-pointer to put Wisconsin ahead 65-62 with 43 seconds remaining in the extra session. It would prove to be the final basket of the game.
"It was just a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Badgers guard Josh Gasser said of the half-court shot. "You dream of it as a kid. I’m sure Ben definitely did. It’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life. I don’t even know if it hit him quite yet, really the impact of it.
"In a few years, when he’s done playing and everything, he’ll look back on it and it’ll be something he’ll remember forever. I think the overtime shot he hit was even bigger than that one. Just a regular 3 to really give us a win. Because that one just sent us into overtime. To finish it off was really the big part of it."
As it turned out, Wisconsin was not the only team impacted by Brust’s shot.
Michigan coach John Beilein, whose team went on to reach the national championship game, credited Brust’s shot, in part, for ultimately getting there.
"We had very similar situations," Beilein said this week. "We took very bad angles on that play and that falls on the coach 100 percent. We didn’t have the help we expected on that play. That falls on the coach, as well. We had two more situations during that year, Kansas in the Sweet 16 game and Syracuse in the semifinal game. And what we learned from that Wisconsin loss paid off in both those situations. Both times, we defended it much better.
"Who knows, if he doesn’t make that shot, whether we make the necessary adjustments in how we coach that last play."
Brust said he hasn’t spent much time thinking about the shot because he is focused on playing as well as he can during his senior season. Still, there is no doubt where it ranks in his own pantheon of shots.
"Just with the situation and just getting squared up and then not a lot of time left," he said, "that definitely is No. 1 for me."
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