With Jordan Taylor ice-cold and the Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels mounting a second-half comeback, Ben Brust continued his stunning emergence as a legitimate scoring threat off the bench.
In Wisconsin’s (8-2) 62-51 win over the UNLV Rebels (8-2) Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center, Brust led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-9 shooting. The sophomore guard was a perfect 7-of-7 from 3-point range, tying a school record.
On a night where Taylor, the team’s leading scorer with 12.4 points per game entering Saturday, scored just four points on 0-of-10 shooting from the field, Brust’s hot shooting effort was critical. With the Rebels focusing much of their attention on Taylor, Brust was frequently able to find soft spots on the court – especially beyond the 3-point arc.
“We need to do a better job at contesting three-point shots,” UNLV head coach Dave Rice said. “That was one of the keys to this game – to make sure that we got to shooters. We did not do a good job of that. Even though [the Badgers] were 10-for-26 [on 3-pointers], we cannot allow one guy to take over the game the way Brust did.”
As a team, Wisconsin shot 20 for 54 (37 percent) from the floor, a mark reflective of the team’s shooting struggles outside of Brust. Freshman forward Frank Kaminsky was the team’s second-most efficient shooter Saturday, sinking two of his four shots for five points. Forward Jared Berggren was second on the team with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting and forward Ryan Evans scored seven on 2-of-9 shooting.
“Both teams were very stingy,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “You have to credit UNLV’s defense, they’re tough to score on.”
The Badgers led by as many as 19 points at the 2:39 mark in the first half, but with no other UW player besides Brust scoring in double figures, UNLV was able to draw closer in the second half. Brust had made three of his four shots at halftime, including a perfect 2-of-2 from 3-point range, and Wisconsin led 36-23.
UNLV narrowed UW’s lead to 10 points at the 13:45 mark, when forward Mike Moser got through the paint for an easy dunk. Brust’s first basket of the second half then came on a three-pointer 40 seconds later to boost Wisconsin’s lead to 44-31.
“Ben was moving away from the ball and finding soft spots,” Ryan said. “He’s real good at that. He moves better away from the ball than anybody we have. As a result, he gets wide-open looks.”
Saturday was Brust’s best shooting night since Nov. 26 against Brigham Young in the Chicago Invitational Challenge title game. Against the Cougars, Brust scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range. Since then, Brust didn’t score more than nine points in a game before Saturday.
Brust now leads the Badgers with 12.6 points per game. Forward Jared Berggren is second with 11.8, and Taylor right falls right behind him with 11.6.
“The past three games, a lot [of shots] felt good, they just weren’t going in,” Brust said. “You’ve got to have shooter’s amnesia and just let it go, keep firing and shoot out of it.”