Wisconsin came into the tournament as one of many teams with legitimate final four aspirations. They had an easy second round win vs. American. After 20 minutes were played in their third round game vs. Oregon it looked like they would be headed home early again this season. After trailing 49-37 at halftime, the games tempo and pace did not favor the Badgers and tings looked bleak. This is when the home state advantage kicked in and Wisconsin played like a team possessed in the second half and outscored Oregon 48-28 in route to their 85-77 victory. After getting by Nebraska in the second round, Baylor was set to go head to head with Creighton and the teams Sports Illustrated star cover boy Doug McDermott, who had become the 5th leading scorer in NCAA history. Baylor held McDermott to 15 points and the game was never close in the 85-55 route. Baylor was bigger, stronger, and faster than the favored Creighton team and it showed. This set up an interesting fourth round matchup vs. Wisconsin.
Wisconsin had all 5 starters play heavy minutes as none played less than 32 and all 5 scored in double figures. Frank Kaminsky had 19 points and 5 rebounds. Traveon Jackson had 16 points and 8 rebounds. John Gasser had 13 points to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Sam Dekker had 12 points and 8 rebounds and Ben Brust chipped in with 12 more. 3 of Brust’s points came on his school record 228th career three pointer that came after 3 offensive rebounds and gave the Badgers the lead for good. The held high scoring Oregon to 28 second half points and outscored them 14-4 in second half points. They wont be able to give up 49 points in a half if they want to win any more games.
Baylor was dominant throughout and all 5 starters also scored in double figures. Big man Isaiah Austin had 17 points and 4 rebounds. Guard Brady Heslip had 17 points to go with 3 assists. Kenny Chery and Cory Jefferson had 14 points and 4 rebounds each. Royce O”Neale had the most impressive overall number with 10 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds.
It is clear that both teams are heavily reliant on their starters, especially Wisconsin. If either team gets into foul trouble it could be the deciding factor in what is otherwise an even match. Austin is a key for Baylor and he wont have an easy time with the Wisconsin front line like he has so far in the tournament. The Badgers rely heavily on the 3 point shot and it will be interesting to see if they are able to find the shots they need vs. the ever evolving Baylor zone which consistently changes throughout the game and make sit hard for opposing offenses to now what they are facing. They held the 5th all time leading scorer in NCAA history in check with this defense so it is far from a gimmick. It will be a great basketball game.
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