ARLINGTON, Texas -- After a loss like the one Wisconsin suffered here Saturday night, a season-ender by the slimmest margin, it can be hard to get a pulse in the locker room. Past the raw emotion and tears, it takes time for those involved to really process what happened.
Traevon Jackson, for instance, couldn't answer a question about who was the first to get to him on the court after he missed a potential game-winner as the clock expired because he didn't remember.
One thing was clear in the UW locker room after this 74-73 national semifinal loss to Kentucky, though. This run toward a championship was for the seniors, and coming up short stung many of the underclassmen for that reason above many others.
"I've been with Ben [Brust] all four years, he's been my roommate," redshirt junior forward Duje Dukan (eight points, five ebounds) said. "It's tough to see a guy like that go. A kid who puts his heart on the line every night, puts his body on the line and really gives it his all."
"We've got to thank him for being in a great leader."
Brust finished his last game tied for a team-high with 15 points (3-of-9 FG, 3-of-7 3-pt.). He hit only one of four shots after halftime, but his five points in a 58-second span midway through the second half helped erase an eight-point deficit.
"I'm very proud of this team's resilience," Brust said. "No matter the situation, we're always gong to make a challenge or make a comeback or whatever it takes to get yourself in a position to win."
If the Badgers carry that mentality over to next year, they have the pieces to be a very good team. Some players in the locker room said as much, but most wanted to focus on the guys who won't be back.
"My teammates that are seniors, as they're moving on in life, I just hope I left a good example for them in terms of showing them that it's more than just basketball that we're trying to do here," Jackson said. "Next year is next year, but right now we just have to console our seniors."
"I really love coaching this team," UW head coach Bo Ryan said afterward. "I knew they had something in them, it was just trying to get it out of them sometimes that was a little bit of a challenge. But they answered it. They answered everything."
This was a tight-knit group that genuinely liked being around each other. That held especially true for Brust and Dukan, who both grew up north of Chicago and came to Madison as part of the same recruiting class.
"I can't even put it into words," Dukan said. "All 16 of these guys are basically like brothers to me."