Many have called this year’s Wisconsin Badgers the best offensive team in Bo Ryan’s 13-year tenure. They showed why in the second half against Oregon Saturday night in Milwaukee.
Playing in a proverbial home game just 80 miles to the east of its Madison campus, Wisconsin overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to outlast the high-powered Ducks, 85-77.
The game-clinching basket came when senior Ben Brust buried a three from the right wing with 1:09 to go to give the Badgers a lead they would not relinquish. Brust’s dagger came on the fourth shot of the Wisconsin possession after three offensive rebounds – two from sophomore Sam Dekker and one from true freshman Bronson Koenig. The Bradley Center crowd erupted as Brust sank the three – his fourth of the night and 228th of his career, a Wisconsin record.
An Oregon miss followed Brust’s three, then Badgers guard Traevon Jackson hit a pair of free throws to make it 79-75. A Jason Calliste layup cut the deficit to 79-77, and Jackson was again fouled on the next possession. This time the junior only hit of one two from the line, giving Oregon a chance to tie the score with 22 seconds to go.
Down three, the whole arena knew who would take the shot for Oregon. Junior guard Joseph Young had already notched 29 points and hit four threes on the game, but as he took the ball around a screen toward the right corner, Wisconsin 7-footer Frank Kaminsky quickly closed as Young fired off a hurried three-ball. The shot hit front iron and Dekker corralled the rebound and was fouled. He hit both free throws to make it a five-point lead and seal the win.
All of Wisconsin’s starting five scored in double figures with Kaminsky, a first team All-Big Ten selection, leading the way with 19 points and five rebounds. Jackson scored 16 and pulled down eight boards, while guard Josh Gasser scored 13. Dekker and Brust added 12 apiece.
Offensive rebounds were key to Wisconsin’s comeback. Oregon was the Pac-12’s fourth-best defensive rebounding team, but Saturday night the Ducks allowed 14 offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 36-26 for the game. Shooting 48.3 percent for the game helped the Badgers too.
Moving forward, the Badgers will play in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the past four years. Despite reaching the NCAA tournament in every year under Bo Ryan, the Badgers have only advanced past the Sweet 16 one time – in 2005.
Past Bo Ryan teams have not had the offensive firepower that this group possesses. What makes this group so dangerous is its balance and ability to score in a variety of ways. Kaminsky has a prolific low post game, but the 7-footer can also step out and hit threes at a 38 percent clip. Gasser and Brust are deadly from three and the 6-foot-8 Dekker has a sneaky first step off the dribble. Jackson is extremely reliable and always seems to make a clutch basket or sink a free throw when his team needs it.
Whether it’s Creighton or Baylor, a tough matchup awaits in Anaheim. The Badgers fed off the energy of the home crowd in Milwaukee. The atmosphere probably won't be so friendly in the Sweet 16.
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