Brust scores career high to lead Wisconsin past Minnesota
By Jack McCarthy
The Sports Xchange
INDIANAPOLIS -- Wisconsin senior Ben Brust had a career game on a milestone night for coach Bo Ryan.
The Badgers guard scored a career-high 29 points to lead his No. 2 seeded team to an 83-57 victory over Minnesota in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal clash at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Ryan picked up his 700th career victory in his 30th year of coaching. He's now 700-222 overall and 317-119 at Wisconsin, the winningest coach in school history.
Ryan's freshmen also delivered gifts as forward Nigel Hayes and guard Bronson Koenig contributed 15 and 14 points, respectively, in 23 minutes of play apiece.
"This is just one game so I won't get carried away but they've learned things through trial and error and they happened to fall into place with shots going down," said Ryan. "But more importantly on the defensive end, I thought the two of them did a really good job."
Forward Sam Dekker added 10 points for the winners.
The No. 12 ranked Badgers (26-6) never trailed on the way to clinching a spot in Saturday's Big Ten semifinals against either Michigan State or Northwestern, which played in Friday's finale.
Ryan never mentioned the milestone in a postgame press conference and declined to speculate on anything beyond Saturday.
"I only know of one game, and that's tomorrow's," he said. "How important is that? That's our next 40 minutes, and that will be a challenge, let alone any other games after that. But we have the right now."
Wisconsin used two first-half runs to build a 34-22 halftime lead and were never seriously threatened in the second half.
"Offensively we didn't have it tonight and you've got to give them credit," Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. "They made us pay. ... I'm very disappointed not so much with the effort but I think we let our offense frustrate us and dictate our defense."
Brust, who hit four 3-pointers and was 9-for-9 on free throws, topped a previous career best of 25 points in 2011 against UNLV. Guard Deandre Mathieu scored 18 points while forward Joey King added 14 for the No. 7 seeded Golden Gophers (20-13).
"As long as we get the win in March that's all that matters," Brust said. "I just came out and some things started falling and I tried to play with energy the whole game and get my guys going."
The Badgers led by as many as 17 points early in the second half while Minnesota got no closer than eight points in the season's third meeting between the longtime Big Ten neighbors and rivals. Wisconsin reserves pushed the lead past 20 points in the late going as they played the final minutes.
Wisconsin never trailed in the first half and used a 10-0 run to open a 21-9 lead after a dunk by Dekker with 9:01 left. Minnesota closed to 21-18 on consecutive 3-pointers from guard Maverick Ahanmisi, King and Mathieu during a 2:45 span.
But two Brust jumpers temporarily pushed Wisconsin back to a six-point lead at 26-20 with just under four minutes left. The Badgers then closed the half with eight straight points in the final 2:37 for a 34-22 halftime lead.
"It's really frustrating," Mathieu said. "They're a really good offensive team and they really just controlled the pace. Once they got a big lead, we knew we had to get stops and we just couldn't."
Wisconsin secured a first-round bye with its second-place conference regular-season finish. Minnesota beat Penn State 63-56 in Thursday's opening round to advance to the quarterfinals.
NOTES: With 25 wins, the Badgers are already a lock for their 15th straight NCAA tournament appearance and 12th under coach Bo Ryan, whose teams have won 20 or more games in nine consecutive seasons. ... Four Wisconsin starters entered the game averaging in double figures: F/C Frank Kaminsky (13.4), F Sam Dekker (12.9), G Ben Brust (12.4) and G Traevon Jackson (10.8). ... Kaminsky earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and F Nigel Hayes was named conference Sixth Man as well as to the all-freshman team. ... Minnesota is 12-14 in Big Ten tournament play and reached the title game in 2010. ... The Gophers have been a No. 7 seed once previously, falling in the first round in 2003. ... Three players average 11 points or better: G Andrew Hollins (14.4), G DeAndrew Mathieu (11.9) and G Austin Hollins (11.8). ... The Gophers beat the Badgers at home on Jan. 22 (81-68) but lost in Madison, Wis., on Feb. 13 (78-70). ... Minnesota and Wisconsin have met in the tournament just once, a 66-52 Badgers victory in the 2004 quarterfinals, the only previous neutral-court matchup in a 186-game rivalry.