MADISON, Wis. On the basketball court this season, Ryan Evans has looked like his usual self in many respects the same high-top fade, the same laser-trajectory jump shots and the same quiet leader who wants to prove himself on the big stage. But something so obviously was not the same.Not through the first 10 games, anyway, when he resembled little of the player that was supposed to be Wisconsin's leading returning scorer and rebounder. He had lost part of his game and wasn't sure how to get it back. Picture the scene from "Space Jam" when the Monstars infiltrate Earth, steal all the talent from NBA stars Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley and leave them bewildered and helpless.Simply put, Evans was too good to be missing free throws and jumpers with the kind of frequency that caused him to fall into a full-fledged slump. Evans seemed aware enough of this to spend extra hours in the gym during Wisconsin's 10-day layoff between games for end-of-semester finals the team's longest stretch without a game all season.The result was one of his best games of the early season.Evans finished with a season-high 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists during Wisconsin's 74-53 victory against Milwaukee on Saturday night at the Kohl Center. He made 8 of 16 shots from the field and 3 of 4 free throws notable because he entered the game shooting just 34.0 percent from the foul line.It was the type of performance that could turn his season around just as Big Ten play arrives for Wisconsin (8-4)."I think just being able to have more focus on basketball in general kind of helped me out, and I think it's kind of helping the rest of us out," Evans said. "A lot of stress has been off my shoulders, a lot of the classroom stress."Through 10 games, Evans looked like a man absorbing considerable stress, and it continued to accumulate when his performances did not improve. He made 1 of 8 free throw attempts in the season opener against Southeastern Louisiana and 1 of 9 tries during a loss at Marquette. His field-goal shooting percentage also dropped to 40.5 percent as he attempted too many 3-pointers and contested jumpers.A year ago, Evans averaged 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds and returned this season as the leader in both categories. He also shot 44.0 percent from the field, 72.6 percent from the free throw line and started all 36 games.It was considered a breakout season for a player who hadn't started a game during his first two years in the program. Evans increased his scoring average by 8.2 points, the fifth-biggest increase among Big Ten players last year and earned honorable mention all-conference status.Many assumed Evans would jump to an even higher level this season, but that did not materialize as his confidence wavered. On Saturday, however, he had no such problems."I just saw some patient shots," Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said. "He even made free throws tonight. I know the crowd was pretty excited about that. Just patience. And sometimes when you get a little bit of a break, it gives you some time to clear your head and get back to the basics. It looks like over the past week, maybe he did a little bit of that."But he's too good of a player to continue to not have good nights or decent nights for this team. He was able to be patient tonight and take good shots."Evans surpassed his season high of 15 points against Creighton by drilling several long jumpers just inside the perimeter against Milwaukee (3-10). It marked the second straight game he led the team in scoring in rebounding. He also did so during Wisconsin's victory against Green Bay on Dec. 12. Evans now ranks third on the team in scoring (11.3 points) and second in rebounds per game (7.0).Badgers coach Bo Ryan said it was only a matter of time before Evans came around."It's a game of what's next," Ryan said. "You take a baseball player in the first eight games of the season, he's batting .150 and then he gets on a hot streak. There will be ups and downs. It's whether or not players are continuing the work hard and defensively do the things that need to be done."There's so much more to the game than just points. But you've got to have them. He had opportunities to score."Added Evans: "They're playing off me, so I'm going to take the shot."Spoken like a man whose growing confidence is making him look and play much like his old self.
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