Wisconsin keeps pace with top seeds, cruises past Coastal Carolina
Sometimes a blowout is just that: a blowout. Wisconsin had one job late on Friday night and that was to stomp out a No. 16 seed, early and easily, setting itself up perfectly for the five-game gauntlet that will begin in earnest on Sunday. That's exactly what happened. No frills. No muss, no fuss. Just a good ol' fashioned Bo Ryan beatdown.
This was a game that was never in doubt. By the time the final buzzer had sounded on Wisconsin's 86-72 win over Coastal Carolina, the Badgers were already on to thinking about Oregon and playing for a chance at another Sweet 16.
For some No. 1 seeds, it's all about the preparation. Taking each individual step to get to the glorious moment when everyone else in the bracket realizes that you're just a step above. That even if they're going to bring their best game, it had better be darn good because it still won't be enough. That's what the best of the No. 1 seeds do when a NCAA tournament begins; they snuff out the hope of the team that steps into the ring with them.
The Badgers? Yeah, they did that.
A 15-point halftime lead was an appetizer to what was coming later. A half which saw the Badgers score 39 points—and yet outscored by one by Coastal Carolina—and yet easily wipe the floor with the Chanticleers in 40 brisk minutes.
Thus far, in the first two days of the tournament, the higher-ranked seeds have mainly been fortunate to keep advancing. Sure the upsets have been buzzing around, but for the most part, chalk has reigned supreme. And when chalk is talking, you had better be involved in the conversation. Every other No. 1 seed had decimated its first opponent by a wide margin already in this tournament.
Kentucky? Won by 23.
Villanova? Won by 41.
Duke? Won by 29.
Wisconsin had to keep pace or fear being lapped once the competition truly began. But for the first 20 minutes it wasn't going according to play. The Badgers were scoring in bunches—they had 47 at halftime— but Coastal Carolina was keeping pace. Head coach Cliff Ellis' team had been in this situation before. It was a No. 16 seed last season, as well, matched up against No. 1 Virginia and hanging with the Cavaliers before falling by 11.
So it was keeping pace, remaining within single-digits until the 4:08 mark in the first half. That's when Wisconsin decided it wasn't going to expend most of its energy on this night. And so the triumvirate got going: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes all started getting involved.
Suddenly, an eight-point lead ballooned into a 15-point halftime margin and that was that. By the end of the night Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes combined to score 62 of Wisconsin's 86 points — Kaminsky leading the way with a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Warren Gillis' 22 points and Elijah Wilson's 20 off the bench were impressive, but ultimately, futile. Wisconsin had done what needed to be done. It brought home the win, did it in easy fashion and set its sights toward Sunday afternoon.
That's when its tournament truly begins.