Rushed Reactions: #1 Wisconsin 79, #4 North Carolina 72

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 26th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.

The Badgers Took a Hit For Most of the Game But Clamped Down Late to Move to the Elite Eight (USA Today Images)

The Badgers Took a Hit For Most of the Game But Clamped Down Late to Move to the Elite Eight (USA Today Images)

  1. Just Needed A Spark. At the 11:11 mark in the second half, the whistle sounded a media timeout with Frank Kaminsky, having taken a hand to the face, laying on the ground in pain. With North Carolina slowly but surely extending a lead (att this point up to 53-46), this appeared to be an ominous sign. Kaminsky was helped off the court, bypassing the Wisconsin huddle in favor of a meeting with the trainer on the bench. After just one possession without him, the All-American re-entered and the Badgers reeled off a 10-4 run over the course of the next four minutes to finally build some momentum and get back within a point. From that point forward, the Badgers outscored the Tar Heels by 14 points; over the course of the 16 possessions from then until North Carolina went to its late-game fouling strategy, the Badgers scored 27 points, good for 1.69 points per possession.
  2. Not Vintage Kaminsky. Frank the Tank would up with 19 points and eight boards, basically his season averages, but tonight was by no means a great performance. He had some trouble with North Carolina’s size, but his early struggles (2-of-7 from the field for four points) had more to do with missed opportunities. He missed at least three layups in the first half and was getting beat up on the boards. In the second half, he worked on getting to the line (all eight of his free throws were after the break) and he spent some time dragging defenders out to the three-point line in pick-and-roll situations, opening up the interior for the rest of his team.
  3. Wisconsin’s Rebounding. The Badgers are not a team that kills people on the offensive glass. They’re a great offensive team because they shoot it really well, never turn it over, and run great offense. Offensive boards are usually an afterthought. However, tonight, when things weren’t coming easy, the Badgers pulled down 38.7 percent of offensive rebounding opportunities, extending possessions and earning 10 second-chance points. The Badgers were then able to exploit the type of matchup problems that they can create. As Roy Williams pointed out afterward, when the Tar Heels had a big lineup on the floor, Kaminsky could pull guys like Kennedy Meeks or Joel James away from the hoop. If UNC responded by going small, the Badgers then killed them on the glass. It takes a special collection of athletes to match up with these Badgers in a 40-minute game.

Star of the GameSam Dekker. We all know Sam Dekker can play, but he’s been a secondary piece for the bulk of his career in Madison, certainly taking a back seat to Kaminsky and a few others. He turned in his best game as a Badger tonight, showing off the many versatile aspects of his game. Rebounding; tough defense; getting to the hoop in traffic; knocking in jumpers; twisting and turning post moves amidst the trees. For the night, Dekker wound up with a double-double, featuring a career-high 23 points on 15 field goal attempts and adding 10 boards.

Sam Dekker's Career Game Came At An Opportune Time (Jim Polzin, Wisconsin State Journal)

Sam Dekker’s Career Game Came At An Opportune Time (Jim Polzin, Wisconsin State Journal)

Wildcard. Zak Showalter. He played 17.2 percent of all possible Wisconsin minutes this year, approximately eight minutes per game. But with less than 10 minutes remaining and his team down one, Showalter was called on for big minutes with starting point guard Bronson Koenig saddled with four fouls and Traevon Jackson in his first game back from injury. He responded over the course of about five minutes with three layups – including one off of a steal that led to a breakaway – an assist, and hard-nosed defensive effort. By the time Roy Williams finally called a timeout, that one-point Badger deficit had turned into a five-point edge and had earned Showalter instalegend status in Madison.

Quotable. Josh Gasser on Wisconsin response to Kaminsky “injury” and the team’s balance: “It was great to see you on the floor, Frank. I like playing with Frank. He’s a pretty good player. But the thing with us is we’re not defined by one player. Sorry, Frank. We’ve got good guys that can come in and contribute. I knew Frank Was going to come back in. But that just shows the balance and depth of our team as different guys can steup up in different moments. I don’t think Bronson [Koenig] would tell you that he had one of his best games, but he was still able to make some big plays in the end.”

What’s Next?  Wisconsin advances to an Elite Eight in southern California for the second time in as many years. They’ll face the winner of Arizona vs. Xavier, with a potential rematch of last year’s Regional Final still in play. For North Carolina, the Heels finished the year at 26-12, do not graduate any seniors and have zero sure-fire NBA early-entry guys. They’ll again be among the nation’s best next season.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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