On the back of a great offensive performance, the No. 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers dispatched the No. 7 seeded Oregon Ducks 85-77 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA tournament:
It's Wisconsin's seventh trip to the Sweet 16 and third in the last four seasons.
Ben Brust hit four three-pointers, but none was bigger than his last, which came with 1:09 to go in the game. Over the previous few minutes, the two teams were exchanging the lead, but the senior's shot from long range put the Badgers on top, 77-75, and sent what was a partisan crowd into a frenzy, per SB Nation College Basketball:
Three offensive rebounds by Wisconsin ends with a Ben Brust three, and the crowd explodes. Backbreaking.— SB Nation CBB (@SBNationCBB) March 23, 2014
When you need a key bucket, it's always nice to have your school's all-time leader in three-pointers made on the floor, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Ben Brust has set the Wisconsin school record with 228 career made 3-pointers.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 23, 2014
It was a lead Wisconsin kept for the rest of the game. The Ducks' shots weren't falling, and when they were forced to foul, the Badgers' shooters knocked down their free throws to seal the victory.
The back-and-forth nature of the second half was accentuated by what was a nice clash of styles between the two teams.
Although this year's Wisconsin has been a little more pleasant to watch than past Bo Ryan-coached teams, the Badgers undoubtedly remained molded with his principles. They are 272nd in adjusted tempo, per KenPom.com.
Oregon, on the other hand, falls on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Ducks average 82 points per game and are 65th in adjusted tempo.
Watching which of the dueling philosophies would prevail was one of the most interesting storylines on the day.
In the beginning, Oregon owned the advantage. Rece Davis was impressed with the way that Wisconsin was handling the quicker tempo, but the Ducks were firmly in control in the first half:
Watching Oregon's style? How hard is that college hoops? Let's see more of it. AND I like that Wisconsin can play at that speed too.— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) March 23, 2014
Grantland's Jonah Keri wasn't too surprised with how badly the Badgers were playing defensively. He believed that their slow tempo often presented the fallacy that they were an elite defensive team:
CBS announcers tout Wisconsin's low TOs/"defense" w/out mentioning they play at snail's pace. Baseball doesn't have a monopoly on this stuff— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) March 23, 2014
Going into halftime, Oregon owned a 49-37 lead. Brian Hamilton of SI.com illustrated how hot the Ducks were shooting in the first half:
Oregon up 49-37 at half, shooting 55.6% from the floor. Ducks having their way. Badgers shooting 48.3% and still down double-digits.— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) March 23, 2014
Head coach Dana Altman was quick to remind his players that there was still another half to play, per Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com:
Dana Altman to the Ducks at the half: "I told you it would be a 40-minute fight. We're just 20 minutes into it." UO leading, 49-37. #GoDucks— Rob Moseley (@GoDucksMoseley) March 23, 2014
His team must not have heeded that advice, as Wisconsin got out to a blazing start, per Sports Illustrated College Hoops:
#UWvsOregon Wisconsin was down 12 at the half. Badgers have cut the deficit to one less than five minutes into the second stanza.— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) March 23, 2014
#UWvsOregon There are people who argue that momentum does not exist in sports, but Wisconsin appears to have it in this game.— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) March 23, 2014
The Badgers demonstrated how imperious they can be when they're at their best. They worked the ball around the perimeter, forcing Oregon to respect the three-point shot. When the Ducks defenders closed out, that opened up Frank Kaminsky in the post for easy buckets. If Oregon collapsed into the paint, Wisconsin had open jumpers.
You simply can't defend that.
Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde was less than impressed with the effort he saw from the Ducks, though:
Here's a thought for Oregon. Get a hand up.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 23, 2014
As bad as Oregon was to start the second half, it never got down too many points. The most it got down was six points, so as much as the Badgers turned the tide, they weren't able to kill the Ducks off. Altman's team withstood the onslaught.
Joseph Young in particular was unfazed by Wisconsin's turnaround. Seemingly every time Oregon needed a big shot, the junior guard was there to deliver. Unfortunately for the Ducks, he couldn't carry the team forever.
Young finished with 29 points to be the game's leading scorer. Jason Calliste backed him up with 20 points. Calliste's stat line was one of the more unusual you'll see, as he made four total field goals. He tallied 11 of his points at the foul line.
Aside from Calliste and Young, Oregon didn't have another consistent scorer, which really hurt down the stretch.
Compare that to Wisconsin, which had all five starters score in double figures. Kaminsky led the Badgers with 19 points, while Traevon Jackson was right behind with 16. Brust's four three-pointers proved pivotal as well.
The Badgers will play either Creighton or Baylor in the Sweet 16. They have only made the Elite Eight three times in school history, with the last trip coming in 2005. Wisconsin has consistently been one of the best programs in the Big Ten, so the fact that it's been almost 10 years since the school's last trip to the Elite Eight seems crazy.
If Ryan's team can replicate this performance in the Sweet 16, it will be tough to beat.