Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 69, #6 Baylor 52

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 27th, 2014

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent. He filed this report after #2 Wisconsin’s 69-52 win over #6 Baylor. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

A Wisconsin player scoring at the rim was a familiar sight Thursday night. (Harry How/Getty Images)

A Wisconsin player scoring at the rim was a familiar sight Thursday night. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Soft Baylor Zone. Two possessions in, one of the story lines of this game became clear: there was going to be a ton of space in the middle of the Baylor zone for Badger players to operate. On back-to-back plays, Frank Kaminsky caught the ball in the middle of the lane and turned around to find the Baylor defender, only to discover that there was nobody there. On the first, he wheeled to the rim for a layup and on the second, he settled for a jumper (which he missed), but this scenario played out time and time again: Badger catches the ball in the lane only to be surprised by the fact that there was no Baylor player there to defend him. And credit Wisconsin for continuing to take advantage of that. Of their 29 first-half points, 16 came in the paint. The second half was distorted some by free throws, but still 20 of the Badgers 40 second half points came in the paint. And on every possession it seemed that the Badgers made it a priority to get the ball inside first and work inside-out. And it was deadly.
  2. Wisconsin Perimeter Defense. Baylor’s offense is predicated on being able to shoot the three well; they take 34% of their field goal attempts from deep and knock in 38.6% of those shots. However, the Badgers’ biggest defensive strength is their ability to limit good looks from deep, allowing the opposition to take just 25.9% of their field goals from three coming into the game. Tonight, those stats played out as Baylor was only able to take 26.3% of their shots behind the three-point line. And many of those were bad looks, resulting in a 2-of-15 night from deep for the Bears.
  3. Dunks and Layups. We mentioned Baylor’s awful defense above, but let’s give credit to the Badgers for running great offense. Against a team that plays primarily zone, like Baylor does, it is all too easy to get caught up in launching perimeter jumpers. The Badgers did not settle for that fool’s gold, instead attacking the rim. Of their 26 field goals, 16 were either dunks or layups. And many of the perimeter jumpers they did get (and often make) came as the result of inside-out offense after the ball was worked inside and then back out for a clean look after the Baylor defense collapsed. Really, the whole thing was a clinic for the Badgers.

Star of the GameFrank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. It became clear almost immediately that Baylor had no good answer for “Frank the Tank” tonight. He scored the Badgers first two buckets on the way to a dominating night. Shot fakes, countless pivots, using his body to seal off defenders; he put on a clinic in the post. For the night, Kaminsky wound up with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while also kicking out three assists. What’s more, against a long and athletic Baylor frontline, Kaminsky wound up with an impressive six blocked shots.

Sights & Sounds. Late-Arriving Crowd. At tip-off for this first game of the night, the Honda Center was somewhere south of 50% capacity. There were about two sections worth of Wisconsin fans behind their bench, a section worth of Baylor fans opposite their bench, and a smattering of fans elsewhere in the building. Why? Because the majority of the fans at this site on this night were always going to be Arizona and San Diego State fans. They trickled in slowly but surely as the game went on, but in a game that was never particularly compelling, the crowd never had much of a chance to get worked up.

Turning Point. The first time Wisconsin worked the ball into the paint only to find no Baylor players interested in defending, you could maybe chalk that up to a fluke or nerves coming out of the locker room. When it happened again and again on repeated Wisconsin possessions, it became clear that the Bears were not going to be challenging in this game. So, let’s call the turning point Frank Kaminsky’s layup with 18:26 remaining in the first half the turning point. The Badgers took their first lead at 4-2 and never looked back.

Quotable. Cory Jefferson on Frank Kaminsky’s Game. He’s just a great player. Offensively, he has a good skillset, a seven-footer that can shoot it. He’s a multi-move guy around the rim, so when you have a seven-foot guy that does that, that’s also hard because if you think you’re going to give him the first move, that’s easy. So you go to try and block it and he uses another move and finishes pretty well. And on the defensive end, he affects shots.

What’s Next? Wisconsin moves on to their first Elite Eight since 2005, where they will face the winner of tonight’s nightcap between Arizona and San Diego State. As for Baylor, their run of Elite Eight appearances every other year ends, but they should have plenty of key returnees next year; only Cory Jefferson, Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin have used up their collegiate eligibility.

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