Frank Kaminsky propels suddenly surging Wisconsin to fourth straight win

Jeff Eisenberg
February 16, 2014

As the final seconds ticked off the shot clock on a key possession late in the second half on Sunday afternoon, Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky had the ball in his hands a few feet behind the top of the key.

First he jab stepped to get Michigan center Jordan Morgan to back pedal. Then he buried a deep step-back 3-pointer right in Morgan's face.

Asking a 7-footer to create off the dribble in that situation is seldom a recipe for success, but Kaminsky could do no wrong during Wisconsin's 75-62 victory in Ann Arbor. He scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, doing most of his damage in the second half as the Badgers were holding off a rally from the Wolverines.

Kaminski's stat line wasn't as eye-popping as his 43-point outburst against North Dakota in mid-November, but in many ways this performance was better because of the caliber of competition he faced. He dominated the paint and scored on an array of low-post moves, jump shots and dunks against a Michigan team that entered the game as co-leaders in the Big Ten along with Michigan State.

Wisconsin's victory extended its win streak to four and confirmed that the Badgers (21-5, 8-5) are back on track after a disastrous three weeks in which they dropped five of six games. They have also won at Illinois and beaten Michigan State and Minnesota at home during this stretch to move into sole possession of fourth place in the Big Ten.

Defense hasn't been as great a strength for Wisconsin this season as it has been in years past, but what makes the Badgers capable of a deep run in March is their wealth of scoring options.

Six-foot-8 Sam Dekker's mobility and athleticism at his size makes him a tough matchup for opposing forwards. Kaminski's ability to score in the post or from the perimeter also challenges other centers. Forward Nigel Hayes is a contender for Big Ten freshman of the year, guard Ben Brust is an excellent perimeter shooter and Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson are playmaking guards with a history of big late-game shots.

It was Kaminsky who stepped up Sunday, especially after Caris Levert helped Michigan trim a 15-point lead to three with six minutes to play. He dominated Morgan in the post and scored the next seven Wisconsin points.

When the Badgers were mired in their January slump, it seemed as though they might not be able to extend their long streak of finishing fourth or better in the Big Ten every season under Bo Ryan.

Two weeks and four wins later, however, that streak looks much safer.