MILWAUKEE — Ben Brust has made 228 three-point shots in his career at Wisconsin, but none have been bigger than the shot he hit with 1:07 left against Oregon to break a 23-year-old record and help send the Badgers to the Sweet 16.
With its back against the wall and season-ending elimination looming, Wisconsin (28-7) overcame its largest deficit of the season (14 points) to beat Oregon (24-10) 85-77 in the round of 32 at the Bradley Center Saturday night.
Junior center Frank Kaminsky led the Badgers with 19 points and five rebounds. Traevon Jackson picked up 16 points with eight boards as all five of Wisconsin’s starters hit double figures in what became a track meet with the Ducks.
Oregon’s Joseph Young scored a game-high 29 points on 10 of 19 shooting and Jason Calliste put up 20 — 11 coming from the free-throw line.
Down by one with less than a minute-and-a-half left, Wisconsin was in dire need of basket to prevent Oregon from extending its lead.
Three missed shots, three offensive rebounds and a timeout later, Jackson found Brust at the right wing. The senior nailed the three to give him the outright record for career three-pointers at Wisconsin and most importantly to give the Badgers a 77-75 lead with more than a minute to go.“Honestly I was about to shoot it, but I saw him open and I had to give it up,” Jackson said. “If he can get his feet set and square, pretty much 90 percent of the time it’s going in. I was just so happy that he hit the shot, broke the record on that shot. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
From then on it was Wisconsin’s game to take at the free throw line. Jackson stepped up for the Badgers hitting seven shots from the line in the final minute to ice the game and book Wisconsin a trip to Anaheim, Calif.
Before Jackson and Wisconsin could even dream about icing anything, they had to figure out how to stop the high-octane Oregon offense that torched the Badgers in the first half.
Like it has all season long, Oregon came out running against Wisconsin. The Badgers had a difficult time stopping the Ducks in transition as they racked up 19 fast break points in the first half.
Oregon shot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half scoring 49 points — the most points Wisconsin has allowed in the first 20 minutes all season.
“They definitely had some quick guys and knocked down some tough shots,” Brust said. “Overall, I’m just proud that we weathered the storm and got the job done.”
Young and Calliste led the charge for the Ducks putting up 17 and 14 points in the first half, respectively.The combination of Oregon’s offensive success and questionable calls that went against Wisconsin resulted in frustration from the Badgers that boiled over when coach Bo Ryan was called for a technical foul with more than a minute to go in the first half.
Up to that point the Ducks had hit all 14 of its free throws, but split the technical shots.
“At halftime last thing I said before we went out was, who is the best defensive player in the room? Guys were looking at me,” Ryan said. “I’m the best defensive player in the room. I got the technical. They made their 14th straight free throw or 13th and then they missed the second one. I’m the only guy that got them to miss … I just said that to loosen them up.”
If Wisconsin was going to have a chance at a comeback in the second half, it had to figure out a way to limit Oregon’s fast break opportunities.
The Badgers responded by completely eliminating the fast break from the Ducks, not giving up a single fast-break point in the second half.
“How many points fast break points did they get in the first half? How many did they get in the second half? That stat right there will tell you that it’s the old ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,’” Ryan said. “If they did the same thing in the second half, we’re going home and not playing anymore, Ben and the other seniors are finished.”
Wisconsin’s ability to neutralize Oregon’s blistering pace and dominate the offensive boards — UW finished with 14 offensive boards compared to OU’s 3 — catapulted the Badgers to a 20-6 run early in the second half and a 15-5 run in the final four minutes to put the game out of reach.
“I knew that they would come out and we talked about this at halftime, that they would be really emotional to start the second half and we had to do a good job,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We just didn’t get the stops.”
The Badgers was able to share its third round win with an overwhelmingly Wisconsin fan base that made up nearly the entire 18,000-plus that were in attendance at the Bradley Center.
“I can’t say enough about our fans tonight,” Sam Dekker said. “They were crazy. That’s the loudest gym I’ve been in in a long time.”
Wisconsin and Brust will now have four days to appreciate the win and its newest record-holder on the team until it will face either Baylor or Creighton Thursday. But, of course winning is all that matters this time of year.
“It was a special moment, but I’m just happy that I got the win, Brust said. “I want to keep going. I don’t want this to end and we’re going to do whatever it takes.”
[Photo by Kirby Wright]