BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
MADISON, Wis. — When Greg Gard went to his bench at Illinois and bypassed the regular subs in the rotation for seldom-used Aaron Moesch, the Wisconsin head coach sent a strong message to his reserves that playing time was not automatic and would have to be earned from game to game.
"To me, it's always exciting to see guys play that you work with every day — a guy like Moesch who's on the scout team with us," said guard Brevin Pritzl. "And it's exciting to see those hard-working minutes being rewarded in the game. Coach Gard kind of always mentions to me, 'Stay ready.'"
At 12:12 of the second half here Sunday afternoon, Gard made a hockey line change plus one. He subbed four players against Indiana, including Pritzl who last played against Rutgers at Madison Square Garden. Pritzl had been practicing well on the scout team. In short, he had stayed ready.
"I get a couple of reps here and there (with the starters in practice)," said Pritzl, a redshirt freshman from De Pere. "So if I get in, I know what I'm doing."
It showed. On a day when it was hard to score — the Badgers shot 39 percent from the field and made only 4-of-17 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc — Pritzl produced some timely scoring by matching his career-high with six points in Wisconsin's 65-60 win over the Hoosiers at the Kohl Center.
"He has gotten his swagger back," said UW head coach Greg Gard. "By that, I mean, he has always been known as a shooter. But when he got hurt, I felt when he came back, he didn't come back with the same level of toughness and appreciation for some of the other things that he was so good at.
"It has taken him awhile to get back in rhythm and figure out those are more important than maybe how pretty the ball looks going in. It's great that he can shoot it, but we need him to do some other things: the intangible pieces of the game.
"He needed to get his confidence back in those intangibles: diving on to the floor, guarding really well, rebounding, taking care of the ball. Those things are what we really value," Gard stressed. "And the bonus is that he can shoot the ball a little bit and score.
"He has been doing more and more of that over the last six to eight weeks. And gradually working his way towards gaining our trust more and more. I thought he did a terrific job today."
Pritzl, the all-time leading scorer at De Pere High School, fractured his foot prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, appeared in one game, reinjured the same foot and took a medical redshirt.
"The last couple of months, I've been getting the confidence back in my game," admitted the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Pritzl. "Coach Gard said it to me, too. It's all about getting back to who I was before I got hurt and kind of finding that mojo. I've done it a little more in practice."
Prior to Sunday, Pritzl had seen limited action in 12 games, four in the Big Ten. The most minutes he had played was 13 against Ohio State (Jan. 16). Twice, he had scored six points (Prairie View A&M and Florida A&M). His only two points in the league came against the Buckeyes.
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