NCAA men's basketball: Badgers beat Oregon, advance to Sweet 16
OMAHA, Neb. -- Whether they can navigate a loaded West Region to reach the Final Four and win a national championship remains unclear. Yet what is not debatable is that top-seeded Wisconsin possesses the heart of a champion. UW's defense appeared...
OMAHA, Neb. - Whether they can navigate a loaded West Region to reach the Final Four and win a national championship remains unclear.
Yet what is not debatable is that top-seeded Wisconsin possesses the heart of a champion.
UW’s defense appeared vulnerable at times and the Badgers too often settled for 3-pointers, but they got a huge second half from Sam Dekker and some key stops down the stretch to prevail, 72-65, over eighth-seeded Oregon on Sunday night at the CenturyLink Center.
UW (33-3) advanced the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five seasons. The Badgers face fourth-seeded North Carolina
(26-11) at 6:47 p.m. Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Tar Heels, who finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference during the regular season, advanced Saturday with an 87-78 victory over Arkansas. However, starting forward Kennedy Meeks suffered a sprained knee and his status for the game is uncertain.
Oregon, which lost to UW in the 2014 NCAA Tournament in Milwaukee, finished 26-10.
Dekker scored 14 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. He scored on a reverse, after a steal by Frank Kaminsky, to give UW a 55-52 edge with 5 minutes, 7 seconds left and buried a 3-pointer, after a steal by Josh Gasser, to give UW a 58-52 lead with 3:58 left.
Kaminsky and Hayes added 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Kaminsky rebounded a missed free throw by Hayes and scored inside with 46 seconds left to give UW a 66-56 lead. He finished with seven rebounds.
Hayes finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Reserve guard Zak Showalter gave UW huge minutes and finished with five points, five rebounds and two assists.
Guard Bronson Koenig was limited by foul trouble but finished with 12 points, nine in the second half. He hit 7 of 8 free-throw attempts, all in the second half.
Guard Joseph Young, who scored 29 points against UW in the 2014 tournament, scored 14 in the first half Sunday and finished with 30. He hit 12 of 25 shots.
With Oregon’s changing defenses limiting UW’s inside game and point guard Koenig in foul trouble, the Badgers had to grind for 40 minutes.
Oregon did a decent job containing Kaminsky (seven points, 3-of-7 shooting) and Dekker (three points, 1-of-4 shooting) in the first half but shot poorly early and trailed by as many as 11 points in the half.
The Ducks also had no answer for Hayes.
The sophomore scored six consecutive points - on a 3-pointer, a jumper and 1 of 2 free throws - to help UW build a 26-19 lead with 5:16 left in the half.
The lead was 29-21 after Koenig hit a 3-pointer with 4:27 left, but UW hit just 1 of its final 6 shots in the half. Half of the attempts were from 3-point range as UW settled for jumpers.
Young, guarded mostly by Gasser, missed his first five field-goal attempts before warming.
He scored 10 points in span of 4:34 to spark the Ducks, who missed 12 of their first 16 field-goal attempts.
Young scored the final four points of the half - on a jumper and two free throws - to cut UW’s lead to 31-28.
Oregon’s players appeared resolute and confident as they trotted off the court and to their locker room.
UW had a 38-32 lead early but entered a danger zone when Koenig picked up his third foul and had to sit with 15:20 remaining.
He returned with 9:04 left and UW holding a 48-44 lead.
The Ducks pulled to within 48-47 with 8:02 left when Jalil Abdul-Bassit (12 points) buried a 3-pointer, after Elgin Cook rebounded his miss and fired the ball to the top of the key.
The Ducks finally forged a tie at 52-52 when Dwayne Benjamin buried a 3-pointer with 5:57 left.
Koenig hit 1 of 2 free throws and after a steal by Kaminsky, Dekker scored on a drive for a 3-point lead.
After a steal by Gasser with, Dekker buried a 3-pointer with 3:58 left to push the lead to 58-52.
A block on Koenig led to a fast break basket by Young. Kaminsky answered with a spin move in the lane with 2:31 left and Oregon called a timeout with 2:22 left.
UW’s lead was 60-54. Would it hold up?
After another Oregon miss, Koenig hit two free throws for a 62-54 lead with 1:03 left and the Ducks never pulled closer than seven points the rest of the way.
On to Los Angeles for UW, with the Tar Heels waiting.