Much of the talk leading into the Sweet 16 matchup between Wisconsin and Baylor rested on how the Badgers' ruthlessly efficient offense would play against the Bears' zone. Wisconsin had shot 36.7-percent from 3-point range in its first 35 games this year, so it seemed the danger for Baylor would be in the Badgers shooting over the top of the zone. As it turns out, Wisconsin was dangerous from everywhere.
Frank Kaminsky scored eight of Wisconsin's first 10 points, all in the paint, and the Badgers, the West's No. 2 seed, led for all but the opening 1:34 of the game, cruising into the Elite Eight with a 69-52 win over the sixth-seeded Bears. Kaminsky finished the night with 19 points, four rebounds, six blocks and three assists. Nigel Hayes had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench for Wisconsin, which shot 52 percent for the game. Ben Brust added 14 points, knocking down three of his five attempts from behind the arc.
Baylor coach Scott Drew admitted during his halftime interview with TBS that his team didn't expect Kaminsky to be able to own the paint offensively, and the Bears weren't able to do anything to change that in the second half, either. Wisconsin executed textbook offense against a zone, assisting on 11 of its first 13 field goals. The Badgers ended with 18 assists on 26 field goals. Baylor ultimately came out of its zone after halftime, but Wisconsin just as effective against the man-to-man, growing its lead to 21 points.
Meanwhile, after making every shot they threw up against Creighton in the third round, the Bears couldn't get anything to drop on Thursday. They made just five shots in the first half and never got into anything resembling a rhythm on offense. The duo of Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin was completely silent in the first half, and put up the quietest 27 combined points you will see for a long time. Sharpshooting guard Brady Heslip, meanwhile, had just four three-point attempts, making only one.
With the win, Wisconsin earned its first berth in the Elite Eight since 2005. The Badgers' last trip to the Final Four, which came in 2000, predates the arrival of head coach Bo Ryan, who came to Madison in 2001. One more victory will get one of the most underrated coaches in America and the most talented team he has had during his 13-year tenure back to college basketball's promised land.
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