Badgers hit their stride at the perfect time

Christian Petersen - Getty Images

You may not remember it, but not too long ago, things weren't looking so sweet for the Badgers.

On the heels of a 15-point beatdown at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin sat at 1-3 in the Big Ten with a trip to Purdue -- where it hadn't won since 2005 -- on deck. Certainly, the Badgers needed to change something, right?

Not so, Badgers assistant coach Greg Gard said. According to Gard, the secret to the Badgers' turnaround was to do nothing different at all. Bo Ryan did not change his strategy or demeanor one bit, even when things weren't going Wisconsin's way.

"Consistency is one of the things we strive for in this program. Being consistent every single day and not changing things. I've always said that I thought coach was at his best when the clouds are the darkest---when we've faced the most adversity," Gard said.

Obviously, something changed. Following the 1-3 start, the Badgers reeled of six straight wins on their way to a fourth place finish in the Big Ten and a second consecutive Sweet Sixteen berth.

One possible explanation is that it took awhile for some of Wisconsin's less experienced players some time to step into their roles. Senior guard Rob Wilson was scored just 2.3 points per game in Wisconsin's first 27 games before averaging nearly 10 per game in its last eight, including a 30-point outburst in the second round of the Big Ten tournament against Indiana

Likewise, junior forward Ryan Evans struggled with mistakes and up-and-down play before emerging as one of the Badgers' most consistent scoring threats down the stretch. Evans has scored 10 or more points in each of Wisconsin's last 14 games and pushed his scoring average to 11.1 points per game, a full 8.3 more than it was last season.

Like his coach, a consistent and steady approach has brought Evans success

"He's kind of always stuck to the task, never let anything deter him," senior point guard Jordan Taylor said of Evans. "He's improved from the time he got here to now, and it's definitely showed."

The most recent Wisconsin role player to step up was junior forward Mike Bruesewitz, who broke a long cold shooting spell over the weekend by scoring 18 points on 11 shots in the two games and going 4-fo-6 from 3-point range.

Bruesewitz hadn't made a three since February 9 before the weekend, but stepping up to face challenges was nothing new for him or any of the other turnaround Badgers.

Taylor has played on several good teams during his time at Wisconsin, so he was careful to choose his words when asked about the strengths of the current Wisconsin team relative to past ones. But he did hint that this team might be better at dealing with tough situations than others he's been with.

"I just feel like we have guys who respond to adversity, I shouldn't say better than in the past, but differently," Taylor said. "Sometimes ... things kind of develop more slowly, but when they do, it can be a really powerful thing."

Powerful indeed.

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