The Baylor Bears were the dominant team in their two victories sending them to Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but dominance switched sides when the Bears went up against No. 2 seed Wisconsin on Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif. The Badgers dominated practically from start to finish, and made seemingly easy work of the six-seeded Bears, winning by 17, 69-52.
Baylor’s Cory Jefferson scored the game’s first two points, but the Bears’ lead was short-lived. Wisconsin broke Baylor’s two-three zone defense, which had served the Big 12 team well in winning 12 of its lasr 14 games coming into Thursday night’s West Region semifinal game with the Big Ten Badgers, scoring on good ball movement and multiple shots at the rim. Wisconsin shot almost 50 percent in the first half while holding Baylor to 20 percent shooting on five of 24 from the field.
The Badgers led 29-16 at the half and kept the heat on in the second 20 minutes, expanding their scoring advantage and never allowing Baylor to get comfortable either offensively or defensively. Baylor never got closer in the second half than the 13-point deficit it faced at the intermission, and the Wisconsin advantage grew to more than 20 on several occasions. Led by 6-9 senior forward Cory Jefferson, who produced what little offense the Bears could muster with a team-high 15 points for the game, Baylor’s shooting troubles did improve in the second half to 32 percent for the game.
Wisconsin’s size and pressure on the perimeter bothered Baylor’s three-point shooting. The Bears led the Big 12 in three-point shooting this season, and shooting guard Brady Heslip led the conference with a three-point percentage of 46 percent. Against the Badgers, though, Baylor was just 2 of 15 from long range, and Heslip only got off four three-point attempts the entire game, connecting on only one of the four.
It had been quite a few games since Baylor did not have a definite size advantage in the frontcourt over its opponent. Wisconsin was able to match the Baylor front-line size, and it proved to be a critical factor in Wisconsin’s ability to throttle the Baylor offensive attack. Seven-foot forward Frank Kaminsky was able to get the best of Baylor’s 7-1 Isaiah Austin, getting to the rim virtually anytime he wanted to and leading the Badgers with a game-high 19 points. As a team, Wisconsin shot 52 percent for the game on 26 of 50 field-goal attempts.
Wisconsin also controlled the boards, outrebounding Baylor, one of the country’s better rebounding teams, 39-33
The Wisconsin victory ended Baylor’s season and NCAA Tourney run. The Bears finished the season with a record of 26-12. This was the Bears’ third trip to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament in the last five years.
The Badgers (29-7) move on to the Elite Eight and on Saturday will play the winner of the other West Region semifinal contest between top-seeded Arizona and San Diego StateThe Badgers move on to the Elite Eight and on Saturday will play the winner of the other West Region semifinal game between top-seed Arizona and San Diego State