ANAHEIM, Calif. – Wisconsin shed its Sweet 16 ceiling by shredding Baylor’s zone defense in its 69-52 win Thursday in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers advanced to their first Elite Eight appearance since 2005, where they will meet Arizona. The Badgers look to make their first Final Four appearance since 2000.
If they play like they did Thursday, they’ll certainly have a good chance. Here are five observations from their victory:
• Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky absolutely dominated his matchup with the Baylor frontcourt. He made 8 of his first 10 shots in the paint alone en route to a game-high 19 points. He also made the going tough for the Bears in the paint with two blocked shots denying Royce O'Neale and Isaiah Austin at the rim.
• The Badgers did what Nebraska and Creighton before them could not: They picked the Bears' zone apart with crisp passing. Wisconsin had assists on 11 of its first 13 baskets to enjoy a 29-16 halftime lead. Traevon Jackson led the way with five assists, but he was not alone. Four other players had at least two assists for the Badgers.
• That rebounding advantage Baylor was supposed to enjoy? Yeah, it never developed. Wisconsin was a fairly average rebounding team this season, outrebounding its foes by only 1.5 per game. But the Badgers controlled the boards against Baylor 39-33. The key for Wisconsin was having its guards rebound. Josh Gasser had a team-high eight and Jackson added seven. The Bears had averaged 14.0 second-chance points per game, but were held scoreless in the category in the first half and finished with just seven.
• Baylor’s offense unraveled early in the game. It wasn’t so much that the Bears couldn’t get open shots, but that they were taking uncharacteristic ones. Forward Cory Jefferson, who had taken all of 18 3-pointers during Big 12 play, had two attempts from deep in the first half. As the Badgers' lead kept growing, it seemed the Bears' reaction was to force shots. The 16 points they scored in the first half was a season low. It was previously 21 against Kansas State on Feb. 15.
• Baylor’s frontcourt missed its share of chip shots, but the inability of the backcourt to loosen up Wisconsin’s defense hurt as much. Point guard Kenny Chery, who averaged 11.5 points per game, missed his first five attempts from the floor. Brady Heslip, the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.9 per game, hit a 3-pointer in the first half for his only points in the game.