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January 8, 2012When asked to define what a shooting slump meant, sophomore guard Ben Brust cracked a slight smile.
Currently in the midst of 1-for-13 rut from distance in each of UW's past two games - - both losses - - Brust knew the question was directly aimed at him.
"I don't know," Brust said. "Not making shots?"
Brust has established himself as Wisconsin's most legitimate threat from beyond the arc this season. Twice he's hit seven three's in a game, including a perfect 7-of-7 performance in a 62-51 win over UNLV.
Recently, though, he's fallen victim of his own success. Every time he squares to shoot, whether it's a foot behind the three-point line of six feet behind it, Brust has the confidence that the shot will be going in.
"I'm telling him to let it fly," UW senior guard Jordan Taylor said. "When you play on this level people are going to say, especially if you're not shooting the ball well, some people might get down on you and you're going to hear stuff from all corners.
"When it comes down to it you're the one shooting the ball and you've just got to block all that stuff out and do what you're trained to do."
Junior center Jared Berggren, like so many Badger big men of years past, has the ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. He has a pretty stroke and usually finds a way to tickle the twine.
But Berggren, like Brust, is in the midst of a 1-for-11 shooting slump from downtown. Combined, Berggren and Brust are shooting 2-for-24 (8 percent) from distance.
"You can't think about it too much," Berggren, who has shot 30 times during UW's current two-game losing streak, said. "You've just got to keep shooting, get extra shots up. You just try to groove the shot. You don't force anything and you keep playing in the offense.
"When the shots come it will come."
Sophomore guard Josh Gasser went through a rut during his freshman year, where he shot 3-of-19 from downtown during a 13-game rough patch. He's privy to what emotional demands are accompanied with a shooting drought.
In short, he knows what Brust and Berggren are currently going through.
"It seems like there's a lid on the hoop," Gasser said. "Sometimes you shoot, it feels good, looks good and it doesn't fall. Every player goes through it whether you're in grade school or the pros, and everywhere in between. Everybody goes through slumps and it's just a matter of staying confident and continuing to get shots up.
"Eventually they'll start falling."
For the sake of Wisconsin, who has lost an unprecedented two games in a row at the Kohl Center, a shooting turnaround from Brust and Berggren would be much appreciated.
Michigan, a team that currently boasts a 12-3 record, is a very difficult opponent, particularly inside Crisler Arena. Wisconsin, a team that traditionally struggles on the road, will need to shoot better than the 33 percent is has shot over the past two games.
That may start with Berggren and Brust, neither of which seemed to have lose any confidence in their ability. Their teammates still back their shooting decisions and want them to find their stroke.
Maybe it will all come full circle in Ann Arbor.
"You've just got to approach every shot like it's going in," Brust said.