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Wisconsin routs Baylor to move within a victory of first Final Four since 2000

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
Wisconsin guard Ben Brust (1) reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball tournament regional semifinal against Baylor, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif
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Wisconsin guard Ben Brust (1) reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball tournament regional semifinal against Baylor, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Honda Center was less than half filled throughout much of Thursday's game between Wisconsin and Baylor because Arizona and San Diego State fans were still pregaming in the parking lot for the nightcap of the Sweet 16 doubleheader.

The way Baylor played in its 69-52 loss, Bears fans were probably tempted to head to the parking lot, too. 

Junior forward Frank Kaminsky scored a game-high 19 points and freshman forward Nigel Hayes added 10 as second-seeded Wisconsin shredded Baylor's zone defense by attacking from inside-out. When the sixth-seeded Bears bothered to collapse their defense to defend the paint, that left Ben Brust or one of Wisconsin's other shooters free from behind the arc for one of the Badgers' six 3-pointers. 

Baylor would have struggled to overcome 53.1 percent shooting from Wisconsin under any circumstances, but the Bears couldn't even stay within striking distance because of their own inability to get any clean looks. They scored the first basket of the game and never led again, falling behind by double digits midway through the first half, by 13 at halftime and by as many as 21 late in the second half.

Wisconsin's victory sets up an Elite Eight showdown with either Arizona or San Diego State and moves coach Bo Ryan one win away from patching the lone hole in his otherwise unassailable résumé. The Badgers have finished fourth or better in the always rugged Big Ten in all of Ryan's 13 seasons in Madison and have reached the NCAA tournament every year as well, but that model of consistency only produced one Elite Eight and zero Final Fours prior to this March.

The last time Wisconsin made the Elite Eight nine years ago, the sixth-seeded Badgers fell by six to eventual national champion North Carolina after besting three double-digit seeds in the earlier rounds. They didn't catch any breaks with their draw this year, aside from playing their first two games in nearby Milwaukee, rallying to overcome a previously surging seventh-seed Oregon team in the round of 32 before dropping a Baylor squad that had won 12 of 14 prior to Thursday night.

Baylor entered the Sweet 16 brimming with confidence after throttling Creighton 85-55 in the round of 32 last Sunday. Four days later, the Bears found out what it felt like to be on the other end of a blowout.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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