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March 24, 2014

UW looks toward Baylor matchup

MADISON, Wis. - With two NCAA Tournament victories under their belt, the Wisconsin Badgers will held West to Anaheim, Calif., in hopes of continuing their season.

Up next on their journey, the Baylor Bears.

Baylor, which defeated Creighton, 85-55, in the third round on Sunday night, finished the regular season tied for a mediocre sixth place in the 10-team Big 12 Conference, but have won 12 of their last 14 games.

The Bears, who rank 77th in the country in defensive efficiency, held Creighton and the nation's most efficient offense to 55 points (24.5 points below its season average), 40 percent from the field (9.9 points below its season average), and 20.8 percent from three-point range (20.6 percent below its season average).

Offensively, the Bears had all five starters score in double-figures, while shooting 63.8 percent from the field and 61.1 percent from three-point range.

Bo Ryan was watching Baylor take on Creighton with his family at home and even they were concerned about the Badgers' chances in their game against the Bears, set for 6:47 p.m. CT on Thursday.

"Unfortunately I walked past my wife as she was talking to her sister," Ryan said, "and I heard her say she was packing lightly. That was one bad sign."

Leading the Bears up front are Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Austin, listed at 7-foot-1, has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and 9-foot-3 standing reach. The sophomore center is shooting 45 percent from the field this season and is averaging 3.2 blocks per game - seventh best in the country.

Instead of watching the Baylor versus Creighton game with the rest of the team on Sunday, Frank Kaminsky watched the game by himself in the Badgers locker room, looking for tendencies of each team and taking mental notes on whom he could find himself matched up against. With the Bears holding a 40-20 halftime lead, Kaminsky spent the majority of the game watching how Austin attacks, defends and moves about the court.

"He's one of the longest players that we'll play against," Kaminsky said of Austin. "He's a good player, a good defensive player with nice, long arms who moves well. On offense he's able to get a bunch of stuff because of his height so hopefully we are able to neutralize that."

While much of Kaminsky's attention will be dedicated to attacking Austin on both ends of the floor, there are other Bears players the Badgers need to worry about. As is the case with Wisconsin, Baylor has four players averaging double figures in Jefferson (13.6), Brady Heslip (11.9), Kenny Cherry (11.5) and Austin (11.2).

Heslip is one of the nation's elite three-point specialists, shooting 46.8 percent from distance this season. For his career, Heslip has made 300 three-pointers, including 117 this season, while Wisconsin's Ben Brust has made 228 three-pointers for his career, including 89 this season.

Wisconsin and Baylor have never faced one another, but had three common opponents this season. On November 23, Wisconsin defeated Oral Roberts, 76-67, and Baylor defeated Oral Roberts, 81-55, on December 30. The Badgers defeated West Virginia, 70-63, on November 27, while the Bears lost to West Virginia, 66-64, on Jan. 28 before beating the Mountaineers, 88-75, on Feb. 22. Wisconsin lost to Nebraska, 77-68, on March 8, while Baylor defeated Nebraska, 74-60.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow Zack on Twitter.

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