ANAHEIM, Calif. — Forget inspirational speeches from his coach, bulletin board material from his opponent or pump-up music from his headphones.
To get motivated for Thursday’s showdown against Baylor in the Sweet 16, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker simply needed to log on to Twitter.
A few hours before tipoff, Dekker noticed that former Badger Brett Valentyn had posted a photo from State Street in Madison moments after Wisconsin qualified for the Final Four in 2000.
“It was just covered with people, swarming with people,” Dekker said. “I saw that and thought, ‘Wow, that’d be really cool to bring that back to Madison.’”
The Badgers are one step away.
In one of the more dominant performances of the NCAA tournament thus far, Wisconsin annihilated Baylor 69-52 Thursday night in Anaheim. Frank Kaminsky scored 19 points and Ben Brust added 14 against a Bears squad that had won 12 of its previous 14 games.
Wisconsin advances to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005. The Badgers, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, will take on No. 1 seed Arizona Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four for the first time under coach Bo Ryan, who was hired in 2001.
“We’re not satisfied with where we’re at,” Dekker said. “We’re not content. We’ve got a high ceiling and we’re trying to reach it. We have more work to do.”
Wisconsin will have a hard time duplicating Thursday’s banner showing.
Baylor had advanced to the Sweet 16 largely because of a 1-1-3 zone defense that helped the Bears beat No. 3 seed Creighton 85-55.
With four days to prepare, the Badgers were hardly fooled by Baylor’s scheme. Ryan’s squad showed tremendous patience, passing the ball five or six times each possession until it was able to work the ball into the middle of the zone, which eventually led to easy shots for players such as Kaminsky, a center who had 10 first-half points.
“Frank is so calm when he gets the ball,” Dekker said. “It’s almost astounding how patient he is and how deliberate he is with his stuff. He doesn’t let people quicken his pace. He plays at his pace."
"It’s not too often you get to play that well against a good opponent like Baylor. They haven’t allowed teams to do that to them all year."
Baylor switched to man-to-man defense but could never recover in the second half, when it trailed by as many as 21 points. Bears coach Scott Drew said Wisconsin’s defense, and not its offense, was what impressed him the most.
Baylor shot just 20 percent in the opening half and only 32 percent for the game. Normally an outstanding three-point shooting squad, the Bears made just two of their 15 attempts from beyond the arc.
“If we’d have played as well as we could’ve and ended up losing, it’d be easier to swallow then going out and putting on a performance like we did tonight,” Bears guard Gary Franklin said.
Wisconsin is hopeful the momentum it gained from Thursday’s win will carry over into Saturday’s game against the Wildcats. The Badgers certainly have their share of supporters. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in the stands Thursday and spoke to the team in the locker room after the game.
“That’s when you know you’ve done something right,” forward Zach Bohannon said.
Still, as excited as they were about what happened Thursday, the Badgers made it a point not to have too big of a celebration. They’re hoping that happens on Saturday, both on the court at the Honda Center—and back on State Street in Madison.
Dekker said he was six the last time Wisconsin made the Final Four.
“When I came here I wanted to be a part of something special,” said Dekker, a potential first-round pick in the NBA draft. “We thought before the season that we had the chance to do something great. We set goals for the season."
“We’re not going to sell ourselves short.”