Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 2/19/12
MADISON, Wis. Josh Gasser watched his high-arcing 3-pointer drop through the nylon yet again and backpedaled down the court, enthusiastically pumping his right fist along the way. He said nothing. He didn't need to. The confidence within Gasser, Wisconsin's starting guard, was brimming in a manner that few had seen for months on a basketball court. In an 83-second span on Sunday evening, Gasser turned the game on its head by burying three 3-pointers. It was enough to push a six-point lead to 13 during Wisconsin's 65-55 victory against Penn State at the Kohl Center. Was it enough to give Gasser, one of the team's best shooters, the assertiveness necessary to take more shots in games? Badgers fans certainly hope so. "Coming into the game, I was really trying to be more aggressive offensively," Gasser said. "Just trying to make plays whether it was for myself or my teammates. I just found myself open. Those are shots I know I'm going to have to take because those are probably going to be the best shots we're going to get in the possession." Gasser's 3-point percentage of 47.1 is the best among the team's regular rotation of players. His overall field goal percentage of 46.3 also is tops on the team among regulars. And yet, despite those stellar shooting numbers and playing the second-most minutes on the team, Gasser has taken the sixth-most shots for Wisconsin this season. Gasser averages less than five shots per game and a little more than two 3-point attempts. Even Wisconsin's 6-foot-10 center, Jared Berggren, has fired up more 3-pointers (92) than Gasser (68). "He's never been told not to shoot when he's open," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said of Gasser. "He has a different trigger than some guys. He knows he doesn't have the quickest release, but it's not the slowest. He found himself in position to make some things happen. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. He's opportunistic, though." On Sunday, Gasser took advantage of his few opportunities and scored a team-high 15 points. He took just six shots and made 3-of-5 3-point tries. He also buried all six of his free-throw attempts. Gasser's 3s helped boost Wisconsin from a 15-9 lead to a 24-11 edge at the 7:59 mark of the first half. And two of his 3-pointers forced Penn State coach Patrick Chambers to call timeout. Chambers admitted that his bigger concern in defending No. 15 Wisconsin (20-7, 9-5 in Big Ten play) entering the game came from point guard Jordan Taylor and forward Ryan Evans. He did not necessarily anticipate that Gasser would be the one doing the most damage. "When they have Gasser, (Mike) Bruesewitz and Berggren hitting shots, they're a tough team to beat," Chambers said. "It's a credit to them for sharing the basketball." Gasser's 15 points and three 3-pointers marked his best offensive output since he matched both totals against Bradley on Nov. 25 -- a span of 22 games. This season, he has been held to single digits in points 17 times, including the six games prior to playing Penn State. Gasser, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from Port Washington, Wis., burst onto the college basketball scene during his first game as a freshman last season when he dropped 21 points on Prairie View A&M. It ranked as the second-best point total in a freshman debut in Wisconsin history, although he hasn't matched that figure in any game since then. This season, his scoring totals have been erratic. He began the season on the kind of shooting streak that most players can only dream about, nailing an astounding 14 of 17 3-point tries (82.3 percent) in the first five games. Since that time, he had been 15 for 46 (32.6 percent) leading up to the Penn State game. It should be noted that Gasser's primary responsibility isn't always to score. When Taylor needs a breather, Gasser slides over and serves as point guard. Gasser's involvement in helping other players on offense has him ranked second on the team in assists. Still, more games like the one Gasser played on Sunday will be required for Wisconsin to have an opportunity to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament next month. While Taylor, Evans and Berggren all average in double-figure scoring, the Badgers have shown a propensity to stall offensively for long stretches against athletic and defensively tough-minded teams. Gasser is by no means a high-volume shooter. But it likely serves the team's best interest for him to be less hesitant in hoisting a few more shots as the games become more important down the stretch. "I was fortunate enough to knock them down," Gasser said. "I've just got to keep playing with that aggressiveness going on and it'll help our team." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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