ANAHEIM, Calif. — All of the talk surrounding Baylor heading into the Sweet 16 was its daunting zone defense. It was still the story after the game, but for a much different reason.
Wisconsin’s frontcourt of Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminsky shredded Baylor’s defense for a combined 29 points in the Badgers’ 69-52 Sweet 16 win.
Kaminsky led all scorers with 19 points and 6 blocks. Hayes picked up 10 and senior guard Ben Brust had 14 points with three 3-pointers.
Forward Cory Jefferson led Baylor with 15 points and sophomore center Isaiah Austin pitched in with 12.
Wisconsin’s big men controlled the game from the start as Kaminsky sparked the Badgers’ offense to an 8-2 run to start the game with six early points.
“They were better on the inside than I had thought they would be,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “On film I thought they were good, but I thought we’d cause a little more trouble inside, and we didn’t do that. So credit Hayes and kaminsky and those guys for doing a good job on the interior. That really hurt our defense.”
The Bears were getting caught with gaping holes in the middle of their zone that the Badgers were able to exploit with midrange jumpers and drives to the basket.
“They left the middle of the zone open a little bit and we were able to get the ball in there and get some easy baskets to the rim, some easy kick-outs for threes,” Kaminsky said. “So we just kind of hammered it into the middle and made some things happen.”
Ben Brust would add to the first half effort with two three-pointers as Wisconsin shot 48 percent from the floor through the first 20 minutes.
Heading into the locker room, the Badgers owned a 29-16 lead over a team that had trailed for a total of just 1:04 entering the Sweet 16.
“Throughout the whole tournament we haven’t really played from behind so the fact that they played the whole shot clock when they had the ball, it makes it difficult to come back on a team like that,” Baylor senior guard Gary Franklin said.
Baylor’s 16 first-half points marked a season low for the Bears and the third-lowest scoring half under coach Drew.
Wisconsin held Baylor to 20 percent shooting as it connected on just five of its 24 field goal attempts—the same amount of field goals Kaminsky made on his on in the first half.
“At the end of the day, shooting is one of those things that sometimes becomes contagious, unfortunately we missed some easy ones,” Drew said. “We just didn’t finish like we have been and you have to credit Wisconsin’s size, strength and physicality for that.”
It was more of the same for Wisconsin in the second half as it picked apart Baylor’s defense.
The Bears would quickly switch to a man defense, but that didn’t slow down the Badgers who continued to get to the rim and finish high-percentage looks.
Wisconsin would stretch its lead to 21 points with just over 10 minutes to go in the game and effectively put the game out of reach for a Baylor comeback.
The Badgers bested their first half shooting performance by connecting on 57 percent on its shots in the second half, a nine percent improvement.
Baylor more than doubled its first half scoring total in the final half, but couldn’t stop Wisconsin’s offensive attack, never getting within 17 points in the final 10 minutes of the game.
“We just stayed disciplined and focused and listening to the scouting report,” Sam Dekker said of his team’s defensive effort. “Our coaches did such a good job of prepping us for this game and we had a lot of time to prepare for these guys. They threw a lot at us, but we recognized it well.”
With the win, Wisconsin advances to the Elite Eight for the third time in school history and the second time under coach Ryan. It will be the first time the Badgers make an appearance in the Elite Eight since 2005.
Wisconsin will take on Arizona Saturday at the Honda Center with a Final Four bid on the line.
“We get 40 more minutes, and I’m awfully proud of them,” coach Ryan said.