MILWAUKEE— Wisconsin fans that made the trip to Kohl Center South (Bradley Center) Thursday may have been getting flashbacks of last year’s NCAA Tournament early on, but dreams of a Final Four run were back in full force when the final horn sounded.
Wisconsin (27-7) rode a 50-9 run that started midway through the first half to completely dismantle American (20-13) and any hopes it had of the upset in a 75-35 blowout win in the second round.
Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson scored a game-high 18 points, shooting 6 of 8 from the floor, and senior guard Ben Brust was close behind with 17 points.
American’s Tony Wroblicky and John Schoof scored 11 points each. No other American player reached double digits in scoring.
Junior center Frank Kaminsky kick started the offense for the Badgers scoring the team’s first six points, but the Eagles would counter with a 12-0 run to give them a 17-10 lead.
“We were excited. We were playing well,” Wroblicky said. “We were making them take tough shots and we were scoring.”
Starting at the 16:15 mark, the Badgers would go on a scoring drought that would last over seven minutes.
The Badgers fans that filled the Bradley Center were beginning to get restless as thoughts of an early tournament exit began to creep in.
With 11:02 left in the first, a timeout was called and the Wisconsin players reminded themselves in the huddle that this is their game to take.
“We were just trying to play like we were the Goliath and they were the Davids,” Kaminsky said. “It was something like that. We’re the two seed and they’re the 15 seed. We should be taking care of business and we went out there and did that.”
Less than two minutes later Brust hit a three to bring Wisconsin within three and bring the home crowd back to life.
Brust’s three would ignite the Badgers to a 22-5 run to end the first half and give them a 32-22 lead at the break.
“Ben sparked the run. We got him an open three and he knocked it down,” Kaminsky said. “From then on out it was just attacking the rim, making good plays and hitting open shots. Ben’s a guy that can do that. He can be a spark when we need him to and he did that today.”
It was more of the same for Wisconsin offensively in the second half. The Badgers would score 20 more points in the first 10 minutes of the second half with seven coming from sophomore Sam Dekker who finished with 11 points and six boards.
Wisconsin’s offensive efficiency in the second half was impressive, but even more important was the work the Badgers did on the other end of the floor.
American was held to just two points through the first 7:25 of the second half because of Wisconsin’s ability to shut down what was working for the Eagles earlier in the game.
“That Princeton offense, they really want to get you on the back cuts, some open threes,” Josh Gasser said. “I thought we took both those things away. They didn’t get many clean looks from three and I don’t think they got any layups on the backdoor cuts.”
Along with locking in the Princeton offense, Kaminsky was able to work on American’s primary weapon, Wroblicky, holding him to just four points in the second half.
“He was the center of their offense,” Kaminsky said of Wroblicky. “He touches the ball for a majority of their plays. Trying to take him out of was part of our game plan and I think in the second half we were able to do that a little bit.”
American’s offense would manage just 13 points in the second half on a 15.8 percent shooting clip to give the Eagles a season-low scoring total of 35 points.
The Badgers’ offense would play up to par with their defense, shooting 57.7 percent in the second half and extending the lead to as much as 41 points.
With the game well in hand, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was able to empty the bench and allow his seniors who don’t see the floor regularly — Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon — a taste of the big stage.
“That’s why they jacked shots right away,” Ryan said. “Right away when a couple guys too shots, they knew right where the camera was.”
The Badgers ended up winning by 40 points — a program record for an NCAA Tournament game.
“We’re trying to do something special here. It all starts with that first game and now we’re going to focus on the next.”
Wisconsin will now face Oregon Saturday in Milwaukee after the Ducks beat BYU 87-68 Thursday night.