That avalanche of 3's buried the Cougars.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — It was rainy outside Saturday night, but that was nothing compared to the way Wisconsin made it rain 3's inside the Sears Centre against BYU.
The No. 11 Badgers hit 13-of-24 3-pointers to defeat the Cougars, 73-56, and claim the Chicago Invitational Challenge championship in front of a crowd of 2,634.
In the City of Broad Shoulders, it was the shoulders of Wisconsin reserve guard Ben Brust that did much of the damage. The sophomore from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., drained 7-of-11 shots from beyond the arc, helping to break open what had been a close game midway through the second half.
"Their team did a great job of finding him," Cougar forward Brandon Davies said of Brust. "He's a great shooter. It was in the scouting report to stay close to him. He was feeling it and knocking down tough shots, whether they were contested or not, he was still making them. You've got to give him a lot of credit."
BYU guard Brock Zylstra's layup tied the game at 42-apiece with 13:30 remaining and it appeared that the Cougars had a legitimate shot at upsetting Wisconsin (6-0).
From there, however, the Badgers outscored BYU 28-6 over the next 11 minutes during a stretch that featured five 3-pointers by Brust, who poured in a game-high 21 points, all from long distance.
That avalanche of 3's buried the Cougars (4-2).
"They hit a couple of shots and we turned the ball over," said forward Noah Hartsock, who finished with a team-high 18 points. "We got ourselves in a hole and just weren't able to dig ourselves out. They played tougher than us during that stretch, and I think that's why they won."
"They were just tougher. They played a great game," Davies said. "They were hitting just about every shot they shot. They were making positive plays off of our errors. You've got to give them credit for how well they played."
Brust wasn't the only Badger that victimized the Cougars. Wisconsin's All-American senior guard, Jordan Taylor, scored 18 points and tallied eight assists, while center Jared Berggren and forward Mike Bruesewitz added 13 points apiece.
"They're an experienced team, and a really well-coached team," said coach Dave Rose. "They've got an All-American point guard who knows where his shooters are, and post guys who can really score inside. Any time you give help, they find that guy you come off of. All five guys on the floor can shoot. As a coaching staff, we would have liked another day to prepare. It was a quick turnaround, especially against a team that our general rules defensively we have to change for that game. It's kind of like playing Air Force. They are a 3-point shooting team, and they are an at-the-basket team. They got what they wanted most of the time."
Wisconsin's defense limited BYU hit just one 3-pointer (on 1-of-10 shooting) on the night. The Cougars shot just 43 percent overall from the field and scored only 24 second-half points.
"They're a very good defensive team," Rose said of Wisconsin. "We're a team that when we shoot the ball well from 3, we have a lot more confidence and play with more of an edge to us. Tonight, they really guarded us at the 3-point line and made us put the ball on the floor a little bit more … We just came up empty too many times on offensive possessions."
Early on, it looked like the Cougars were going to be blown out as they quickly fell behind by double digits. The Badgers hit its first six shots of the game, including five 3-pointers. The Cougars, meanwhile, knocked down 4 of 5 first shots, but trailed 17-8 in the opening minutes.
Wisconsin extended its lead to 22-10 before BYU rallied. A jumper by Stephen Rogers gave the Cougars a 28-26 advantage. They stretched their lead to 30-26 as part of a furious 20-4 run.
During that spurt, Hartsock scored six points and freshman Damarcus Harrison had five, including the Cougars' lone 3-pointer of the game.
But Wisconsin answered with eight unanswered points to retake the lead. The Badgers, who drilled seven 3-pointers in the first half, held the advantage at intermission, 34-32.
The two teams traded baskets during the first seven minutes of the second half in what was a physical battle. But Brust's red-hot shooting doomed BYU. Going into the game, Brust had made 12 3-pointers in five games this season.51 comments on this story
"We were focused so much on everybody because they're all shooters," said Hartsock. "They can all make shots on their team. He was the beneficiary. When they penetrated, and we helped off and they were able to kick and he was able to make those shots, that's what really hurt us … Wisconsin's a very good team. They ran their offense really well. They got it down late in the shot clock and were able to make great passes and great shots. That started to wear on us in the second half when they were able to make open shots."