As Mike Bruesewitz looked around after a practice earlier this week, the junior forward on the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team pointed out what he considered to be a positive sign for the Badgers.
There, at several baskets in the Kohl Center's Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion, were several of his teammates firing jumper after jumper.
"Hard work usually pays off," Bruesewitz said.
That's what Bruesewitz hopes will help him break out of a mini-slump that played a role in UW's offensive woes during losses to North Carolina and Marquette last week.
Bruesewitz missed all three of his shots and was held scoreless in 19 minutes against North Carolina a week ago. Three days later, he was 1-for-5 from the floor and finished with seven points against Marquette.
"I'm trying to find it a little bit," Bruesewitz said. "Kind of struggling a little bit. But that comes with the season. Stuff comes and goes a little bit. Sometimes your shot's falling, sometimes it's not. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't."
Ironically, the only non-free throw Bruesewitz made last week was a 3-pointer in the first half against Marquette that danced around the rim and bounced off the backboard before falling in. It put UW ahead 17-16 and turned out to be the Badgers' last lead of the game.
A play in the second half pretty much summed up Bruesewitz's frustrating week: He thought he had a good look from close range that would have cut what was once a 13-point deficit for UW down to one with 8 minutes, 34 seconds to play; instead, Marquette freshman Juan Anderson altered the shot enough for it to end up off target, resulting in a wasted quality scoring opportunity in a tight game.
Anderson scored on the other end, and Marquette maintained at least a three-point lead the rest of the way en route to a 61-54 victory.
After Bruesewitz averaged 8.7 points off the bench in three NCAA tournament games as a sophomore, the assumption by many was he would step into the role as the No. 2 scoring option behind senior point guard Jordan Taylor this season.
It hasn't worked out that way. Bruesewitz is sixth on the team at 6.6 points per game and is shooting 37.8 percent. The breakdown of those numbers is strange: Bruesewitz is shooting 42.1 percent (8 of 19) from 3-point range and 34.6 percent (9 of 26) from inside the arc.
Bruesewitz came into the season knowing he would no longer fly below the radar on opponents' scouting reports. Instead of being the sixth or seventh player they talked about, he would be the second or third.
"There's no doubt that's a hard transition to make," UW assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "You think automatically because a guy's a year older and he's a junior now, he's going to be able to fulfill that role.
"Mike's got the right makeup of the guy that is capable and the right work ethic of the guy who is capable, but it's still going to be a transition."
Don't rule out Bruesewitz breaking out of his slump as soon as Wednesday night, when the 14th-ranked Badgers (6-2) host UW-Green Bay (4-4) at the Kohl Center. He scored a career-high 18 points in a 70-56 victory over the Phoenix last season.
Bruesewitz considers himself a jack-of-all-trades on offense who can score from the perimeter, post up against smaller defenders, use his quickness to get past bigger opponents and clean up garbage around the basket by anticipating where missed shots will end up.
So far this season, Bruesewitz admits he hasn't excelled in any of those areas.
"He just needs to get in the flow earlier, which may mean posting up early to get a bucket or two around the basket," Paris said. "Then your game starts to expand a little bit."
The one thing Bruesewitz doesn't want is for his offensive struggles to affect the way he plays on the other end of the court.
"If stuff isn't going your way, you've got to try and hang your hat on something else, and definitely it's defense," Bruesewitz said. "If I'm not shooting the ball well, I'm going to go try and crash the boards, get as many rebounds as I can, get on the floor, get bloody, go play defense for 35 seconds.
"Offense is nice to have and it's fun to play, but if you're not shooting the ball well or something isn't going right offensively, there's a ton of other things you can do in the game of basketball to help your team win."