(12) helped to inspire the Badgers in the second half of their rout of American. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)
MILWAUKEE – As Wisconsin readied to inbound the ball and start the second half of its opening round game against American on Thursday, the threat of becoming the latest No. 2 seed to suffer a galling loss to a No. 15 seed had abated. The Eagles had been feisty in the early going at the Bradley Center, but had eventually fallen behind by 10 points at the half. The chances of making a recovery in a building dominated by loud, red-clad Badgers fans were microscopic.
Still, just in case, Badgers guard Traevon Jackson walked over to forward Sam Dekker just before the final 20 minutes commenced.
“Hey,” Jackson said, “don't give 'em no hope.”
Mission accomplished. Wisconsin went on to completely decimate American, winning 75-35. There were some nervy moments early in the game, with the Eagles hitting four of their first five shots and leading by seven midway through the first half. But the Badgers methodically eroded American's advantage. Jackson's 18 points led the way, and Ben Brust kept Wisconsin afloat through the team's early struggles, scoring 11 of his 17 points in the opening 20 minutes. His and-one late in the first half broke a 20-20 tie and gave the Badgers a lead they would never relinquish.
Wisconsin closed the first half on a 9-0 run, extended its advantage to 17 points on a Nigel Hayes jumper about four minutes into the second half, and then doubled-up the Eagles on a Dekker run-out dunk for a 51-25 lead with 12:26 to go. The afternoon ultimately was a slice of American wheeze, with the Patriot League champions shooting 29.7 percent and committing 17 turnovers, while the Badgers shot 50 percent from the floor.
If there was any drama, it came when Dekker left the game midway through the second half, and then rubbing his left knee/quadriceps on the bench. He was smiling moments later, however, standing to applaud a Josh Gasser three-pointer that upped Wisconsin's lead to 34, before checking in at the next dead ball. Dekker, like the Badgers, took a bit of a bump on Thursday. But it was hardly anything to worry about.
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