Right after Ben Brust made the best shot of his life — “By a long shot, actually,” he admitted afterward — the junior guard for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team had to somehow compose himself.
It wasn’t easy, what with the ear-piercing pandemonium going on around him at the Kohl Center.
“You celebrate a little bit and you get excited,” Brust said. “Then when you sit down in that chair, you think to yourself, ‘We’ve got to get focused because we have 5 minutes of basketball left to play.’ ”
Little did Brust know he had another big shot to add to his resume, one that will go down as merely a footnote in the grand scheme of things but was huge nonetheless.
After tying the game at the buzzer in regulation with a heave from just inside of halfcourt, Brust made a 3-pointer with 39.6 seconds left in overtime to lift the Badgers to a 65-62 Big Ten Conference victory over No. 3 Michigan on Saturday afternoon.
Brust finished with a team-high 14 points to lead four players in double figures for UW, which made an emphatic statement that it’s not going away in the Big Ten title race.
Senior forward Jared Berggren added 13 points, including a key three-point play late in regulation, as the Badgers (17-7, 8-3 Big Ten) beat a team that likely would have taken over the top spot in the polls with a victory.
Instead, Michigan (21-3, 8-3) lost for the 11th consecutive time at the Kohl Center despite 19 points from sophomore point guard Trey Burke and 18 from junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr.
“The crowd was great for them,” Burke said. “It just went their way.”
UW’s student section stormed the court after UW improved to 6-1 in its last seven home games against teams ranked in the top 5 of the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
“It’s probably going to be an ‘Instant Classic’ game,” Berggren said. “It’s pretty cool to think about. It was a fun game, and we’re just happy to survive with the win.”
The final 65 seconds of regulation alone were worth the price of admission.
After Burke hit a fallaway jumper to give Michigan a 57-54 lead, Berggren answered with his aforementioned three-point play to tie it. After catching the ball on the right wing, Berggren drove around Michigan’s Mitch McGary and finished with a powerful, one-handed dunk over Burke, who thought he might have drawn a charge.
Berggren made the free throw with 31.9 seconds left and Michigan called a timeout to plot its final possession, knowing full well that UW had fouls to give.
UW senior forward Mike Bruesewitz chased Hardaway over a pick at the top of the key and tried to reach in and get a foul called, but the officials let the teams play on. Hardaway drilled a 25-footer with Bruesewitz all over him that gave Michigan a 60-57 lead with 2.4 seconds left.
“I felt like I was in the right position and forced a really tough shot,” Bruesewitz said. “The credit’s got to go to him, he knocked it down.”
UW called a timeout and Badgers coach Bo Ryan called a play his team has worked on over and over in practice.
Sophomore Traevon Jackson cleared traffic by cutting hard toward Bruesewitz, who was taking the ball out of bounds. Brust’s job was to read the defense and curl to an open space.
Bruesewitz hit Brust in stride near halfcourt and, after one dribble, Brust released a shot from just past halfcourt as he was falling to his right.
“The best thing was Mike’s pass,” Ryan said of the play that led to a shot that will go down as one of the most memorable in program history. “Right on the dime, on the run, he didn’t have to reach back for it, and he was able to catch that and all in one motion. That’s what we want.”
What Michigan coach John Beilein wanted was for his team to foul. Freshman guard Caris LeVert was guarding Brust but had little time to foul after Brust took the pass and turned the corner.
After the shot went in, Brust got mobbed by his teammates and Bruesewitz noticed that even the usually even-keel Ryan was enjoying the moment.
“Coach Ryan actually put his arms up,” Bruesewitz said. “He showed some emotion, which was odd. I’ve never really seen him do that. Every once in a while, he’ll bring it out and that’s when you know something big has happened. When he shows a little emotion, it means you’ve done something pretty special.”
Not only does Bruesewitz deserve credit for making a perfect pass to set up the tying heave, but the team’s emotional leader should get an assist for making sure his teammates didn’t get carried away with their celebration.
“That was a great shot and I’m happy for him, and I’m patting him on the back now,” Bruesewitz said. “But at the time, I was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got another 5 minutes and we’ve got to get this done.’ Because if we lose this game, that just goes in SportsCenter Top 10 and then we all forget about it.”
Jackson gave UW the lead in overtime when the left-hander drove and stopped near the low block, then spun around and banked in a shot with his right hand.
Hardaway tied the game with a basket with 2:45 remaining, but those were Michigan’s only two points in eight possessions in the extra session.
McGary missed the next two times down the floor for Michigan, including a layup following a turnover by Jackson, who hustled back to contest McGary’s attempt.
“I think we got good shots several times,” said Beilein, whose team was 1-for-7 in overtime and shot 39.4 percent from the field overall. “The ball just didn’t go in.”
Brust missed a shot with just over a minute remaining but forced a turnover by Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas, who had grabbed the rebound.
UW had gone four consecutive possessions without scoring before Brust took a handoff from Bruesewitz at the top of the key and floated to the right wing. LeVert allowed just enough room for Brust to release a 25-footer that went in and gave UW a three-point lead.
“I thought I was going to have to go by him,” Brust said. “But as soon as I saw that I had enough space, I was like, ‘I can get this one off,’ and I shot it with confidence.”
After a missed shot by Hardaway, Michigan fouled three times to put UW in the bonus.
Ryan inexplicably put senior forward Ryan Evans, the team’s worst free throw shooter, in the game after Michigan’s sixth team foul and the Wolverines fouled him after an inbound pass.
Evans missed the free throw, giving Michigan a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. Burke worked around a pick by McGary at the top of the key and released a 25-footer with Berggren in his face that barely missed.
The crowd stormed the court and, naturally, Brust got mobbed by fellow students.
“People were putting hats on me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Where did this come from?' Pretty cool hat, too. It was awesome. It’s something I’ll remember forever and I’m sure a lot of people will.”