Published November 20, 2014
Wisconsin's lopsided victory over Southeastern Louisiana in Sunday afternoon's season opener wasn't unexpected for the Badgers.
What was a surprise for the Kohl Center crowd was the return of Mike Bruesewitz to the court.
Bruesewitz, who only returned to practice Friday after suffering a serious laceration on his lower right leg during practice Oct. 9, scored 10 points in 13 minutes as No. 23 Wisconsin throttled the Lions 87-47.
"I'm definitely recharged and refocused," said Bruesewitz, who hit all three of his shots, was 2-for-2 from the line and grabbed three rebounds. "I was really excited to come into the season before the injury, and now (the excitement) is about 10 times more.
"I'm excited that I got cleared to play today. I was all smiles last night, this morning and all through pre-game. I'm really excited to be back, I guess that's the best way to describe it."
Jared Berggren led the Badgers (1-0) with 19 points and Ben Brust had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Wisconsin, which scored the first 19 points and cruised to its 11th consecutive season-opening win.
Senior Ryan Evans had nine points and nine rebounds and Berggren grabbed nine boards as the Badgers dominated on the glass, outrebounding the smaller Lions 49-22.
But after the game, much of the talk centered around Bruesewitz. Berggren was asked what he expects to see from his teammate.
"You guys have all seen it, what he's capable of, the energy and intensity he brings, the toughness, he does all the little things, getting on the glass, getting rebounds, he'll knock down open shots, he makes plays for himself and other people," Berggren said.
"That's what we love about him and that's why he's a key piece to our team. So we're happy he's back now and I think he's ready for a couple more minutes now. He's looking pretty good."
The personable Bruesewitz, known as much for his curly red hair that he's again growing into an Afro as for his work rate, grinned and said, "I'm going to tear up over here."
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said it was clear in practices Friday and Saturday that Bruesewitz was ready to log at least some minutes.
"To see a guy like that back with that kind of experience, it was so obvious in practice on Friday and Saturday what he gives us," Ryan said. "So now to have that back, we're very thankful."
Count Southeastern Louisiana coach Jim Yarbrough among those who didn't expect to see Bruesewitz on Sunday.
"No, I did not. I was extremely disappointed to see him out there today," deadpanned Yarbrough, whose team continues its challenging start to the season with games at Marquette on Tuesday and New Mexico State on Thursday. "They have enough weapons without him. He's so rugged, tough. ... He was terrific."
Redshirt freshman George Marshall, starting at point guard for Wisconsin with junior Josh Gasser out for the season with a torn ACL, hit a 3-pointer just 13 seconds in to set the tone of the day.
Berggren and Brust had six and five points, respectively, in the opening surge and freshman Sam Dekker followed Marshall's lead by draining a 3 on his first collegiate shot to make it 19-0 with 12:49 left in the first half.
The Lions (0-1), who missed their first five shots and committed four turnovers, finally got on the board when Todd Nelson made a 3 from the right corner 7:21 into the game.
Dre Evans had 13 points to lead Southeastern Louisiana and Roosevelt Johnson added nine. However, senior standout Brandon Fortenberry was just 1-for-8 and scored two points in his first game since last December, when he suffered a season-ending broken foot.
It was a good opening defensive test for Wisconsin's guards, who will need to pick up the slack without Gasser — a Big Ten All-Defensive Team pick last season.
"Collectively at the guard spot me, George and (sophomore Traevon Jackson) are going to have to do a good job working together and making sure we stop penetration and do our best to get what we can without Josh. So we're just going to step up," said Brust, whose team will face a much tougher test Wednesday at No. 10 Florida.
Before the game, Wisconsin announced that junior forward Duje Dukan will redshirt this season. Dukan, a native of Deerfield, Ill., who scored nine points in 13 games last season, had mononucleosis in September and missed nearly a month of preseason conditioning.