The first five minutes of Thursday night’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the 2-seed Wisconsin Badgers and 6-seed Baylor Bears set the stage for the rest of the game, as an early 8-2 Wisconsin lead blossomed into a 29-16 advantage at the half and a blowout 69-52 victory.
Baylor’s early 2-0 advantage proved to be its only lead of the game, as Wisconsin scored the next eight straight and continued pouring on the points as they earned the victory and the right to advance to the Elite Eight.
Baskets were hard to come by in the first five minutes of the match-up, but Frank Kaminsy had no trouble asserting himself in the middle of Baylor’s zone. The big man scored six of those first eight Wisconsin points in the opening five minutes, and ended the half with 10 points, four rebounds, three blocks and an assist.
Kaminsky alone was 5-of-8 from the field (62.5 percent) in the opening 20 minutes; Baylor, as a team, shot 5-of-24 (20.8 percent).
Wisconsin went into the half leading 29-16, punctuating the period with a Nigel Hayes tip-slam in the Badgers’ final offensive possession.
The Badgers came out of the break and continued to take it to the Bears, pushing the lead to 21 points, 51-30, with about 10 minutes remaining. With less than five minutes to play, Wisconsin had maintained the 20-point advantage, and as the final minutes ticked away, the Badgers were able to empty their bench en-route to a 69-52 win.
The story of the night was Kaminsky.
His strong play early put pressure on Baylor’s zone, forcing them to collapse into the paint as Wisconsin continued to find the big man in the lane.
When Baylor collapsed the zone, Kaminsky found the open man on the perimeter, setting up his teammates for easy, and open, jump shots.
Kaminsky finished the night with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting (3-of-4 FT), but his offensive production wasn’t the only factor on the night.
Kaminsky recorded a career-high six blocks, and pulled down four rebounds while dishing out three assists as well.
Baylor had no answer for Wisconsin’s offensive attack, as the Badgers scored inside and out, shooting 52 percent overall and 37.5 percent from three-point land.
Wisconsin’s defense, conversely, was tough all game, starting with Kaminsky’s six blocks and continuing throughout the entire squad. Baylor was cold from the floor all night, shooting just 31 percent from the floor, despite the occasional highlight-reel dunk, and a paltry 13.3 percent from long range.
Behind Kaminsky’s big night, Ben Brust dropped 14 points, including a 3-of-5 night from three-point range. Hayes came off the bench to add 10 points and six rebounds.
The win advances Wisconsin to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. It will be the school’s fourth Elite Eight in the university’s history.
The Badgers will face the winner of 1-seed Arizona and 4-seed San Diego State, who played later Thursday night.
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