Men’s basketball breakdown: How the Badgers got past North Carolina and advanced to the Elite Eight

first_imgLOS ANGELES — It was the bare minimum, but the Wisconsin men’s basketball team clawed its way past North Carolina for a 79-72 Sweet 16 win.The Badgers have advanced to the Elite Eight for the second year in a row.Led by Sam Dekker with a game-high 23 points, the Badgers battled back from down seven with 11:11 remaining to go on a 33-19 run to end the game.The comeback began with a three-pointer from sophomore point guard Bronson Koenig, followed by an and-one by sophomore forward Nigel Hayes to cut the Tar Heels lead to one.With 6:08 on the clock, fifth-year senior guard Josh Gasser found redshirt sophomore Zak Showalter on a backdoor cut, who finished at the rim to give Wisconsin a 61-60 advantage, its first lead since the 17:02 mark.A Showalter steal and fast break layup, followed by a Dekker basket, gave the Badgers a five-point lead they wouldn’t surrender the rest of the way.North Carolina’s Marcus Paige made two clutch threes in the final 1:09, but it wasn’t enough to lift the Tar Heels.Turning PointThe Badgers needed a spark. Senior forward Frank Kaminsky lit the match with a three to make it 60-59. Then, Showalter poured gasoline on the spark.He faked out his defender on a backdoor cut down the left baseline, where Gasser dished him the ball. Showalter then used the rim to protect his shot from getting blocked from behind, and kissed the ball off the glass to give Wisconsin a lead it wouldn’t relinquish for the final six minutes.Showalter upped the energy even further the next possession, when he stole the ball from North Carolina’s Nate Britt at halfcourt, streaked down the right side, and finger rolled it in.The next Badgers possession, Dekker drove to the rim to give Wisconsin a five-point cushion and capped off the change in momentum.It Was Over When…In a game like this, it’d be imprudent to declare the contest “over.” But when Kaminsky stepped to the free throw line with the Badgers up three and proceeded to sink both, giving Wisconsin a 77-72 lead with 16 seconds to go, it was as good as over.Wisconsin Player of the Game: Sam DekkerSam Dekker played arguably his best game at Wisconsin Thursday night, scoring a career-high 23 points. He also recorded his first double-double of the season by hauling in 10 rebounds.Dekker shot 66.6 percent from the field on 10-of-15 shooting (1-of-5 from three). He carried the Badgers in the first half, scoring 15 of the team’s 31 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a put back off a Koenig miss to beat the buzzer and send Wisconsin into the half down only two (33-31).Dekker scored six points in the a span of one minute and 12 seconds toward the end of the first half, which gave the Badgers a 25-20 advantage. He also had a thunderous jam on a baseline cut and a feed from Koenig with 11:19 to go in the half.North Carolina Player of the Game: Justin JacksonFreshman forward Justin Jackson didn’t let his youth and inexperience show Thursday night, as he scored a team-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting.Jackson was 3-3 from behind the arc, where he shot only 28.1 percent from the entire season.He keyed up clutch shot after clutch shot. With 1:56 remaining in the first half, he sunk a three to give North Carolina a 31-28 lead. He drilled his final three of the day when his team was down 65-60, and kept the Tar Heels within a basket of the Badgers.Jackson ReturnsAfter 18 games and over 10 weeks of rehabbing his broken right foot, senior guard Traevon Jackson returned to action on Thursday. He entered the game with 16:19 left in the first half, after Koenig picked up his second foul.With Koenig in foul trouble the entire game, Jackson played nine minutes. On his first offensive possession back, Jackson knocked down his first shot from the right corner to give Wisconsin a 9-6 lead.Jackson finished with four points, one assist and one turnover.“It’s fine,” Jackson said after the game of his right foot. “It feels good.”Gritty GasserWhile Josh Gasser hardly ever stacks the stat sheet, his defensive contributions to Wisconsin are invaluable.Thursday, Gasser had the task of guarding North Carolina’s top scorer, junior guard Marcus Paige. Coming into the game, Paige averaged 14.1 points per game. He scored 12 on Gasser, with six of those coming on deep three-pointers in the final 1:09 of the game.On Jackson’s three-pointer, Gasser scooped up a loose ball in the paint and kicked it to Jackson in the corner in the midst of traffic.At the end of the first half, with Paige driving at him, Gasser forced a jump ball that gave Wisconsin a final possession, which led to Dekker’s putback and Wisconsin heading to the locker room down only two.Gasser made another big play around the hoop when Wisconsin trailed by its largest margin. With his team down 51-44, Gasser tipped an offensive rebound off a miss to Dekker who laid it in to keep the Badgers within five.After Wisconsin went up 65-60, North Carolina tried to regain the momentum and cut the Badgers’ lead to 65-64. Then, Gasser nailed a three from the left wing for three of his six points.Frank Finishes StrongWhen a candidate for National Player of the Year is on the court, a lot of attention will go his way. That’s what happened to Frank Kaminsky on Thursday.He didn’t score until the 8:39 mark of the first half and finished the first 20 minutes of play with only four points. He was 2-of-7 from the field, as North Carolina was making life difficult.That changed quickly in the second. Within the first one minute and three seconds of the half, he doubled his scoring on the game with a basket and two free throws.Kaminsky scored 15 second-half points on 3-of-4 shooting, going 8-for-8 from the free throw line. He sunk his lone three-point attempt to cut North Carolina’s lead to one (60-59) with 6:42 left in the game.QuotableBo Ryan on the caliber of his players: “You sit down to the breakfast with bacon and eggs. You look at the eggs, you know the chicken was involved. You look at the bacon, and you know the pig was committed. I heard that at Platteville in 1984, and I’ve used it in every banquet speech I’ve ever given, because I told the guy that told me that I was going to use it.”Ryan on Gasser containing Paige: “Josh Gasser is a guy who, whatever the assignment is, he’ll take it on. And he’s never wavered. Never wavered at all.”Nigel Hayes on Dekker’s production while he and Frank struggled offensively: “Frank and I really weren’t producing that well and Sam took it upon himself to fill that void and he did a great job doing that.”Zak Showalter on his fast break layup to give the Badgers a 63-60 lead: “After the basket before that, I’m gambled a little bit on the steal because I was tired. And I got the ball and I cramped up in both legs…I was about to cramp up. I was running in quick sand for a little bit, so going down the court was a struggle.”Showalter on the toughness and grit of North Carolina: “Frank had some blood on him. I had blood on me, so yeah this was a battle. They played tremendous. They made shots that we weren’t expecting them to make. They gave us everything we could handle and we just overcame it.”Frank Kaminsky on stretches where Wisconsin couldn’t get anything going offensively: “For stretches of this game I think we played great but for other stretches I don’t think we played up to our standards. Games are ebbs and flows. You just hope you have more good minutes than you have bad minutes and that was the case tonight.”Kaminsky on staying confident despite struggling in the first half: “A lot of it just comes with reading situations and trying to attack anything I could. I was able to get to the free throw line and knock down some free throws. And obviously when you’re shooting the ball and you need some confidence, that’s one place to try to get it from.”last_img

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