ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Wisconsin Badgers led for all but 17 seconds in their dominating 69-52 victory over the Baylor Bears on Thursday night at the Honda Center to earn their first trip to the Elite 8 since 2005.
"This is something you dream about as a little kid," Frank Kaminsky said. "Wow. The Elite 8. It's a great thing and to be a part of that is just an honor."
The Badgers started off hot, hitting on four of their first seven attempts from the field against a Baylor zone that held the nation's most efficient offense, Creighton, to 55 points and 20.8 percent from three-point range in the Round of 32.
Wisconsin, which boasted a nation-best 1.20 points per possession against the zone coming into Thursday's game, scored 1.07 points per possession in the first half. When Baylor cut the Badgers lead to 10-8 with 11:08 remaining in the first half, Wisconsin responded by hitting six of its next 10 shots to open up a 25-11 lead with 3:39 to play.
"We talked about how they kind of leave the middle of the zone open some times and we were able to exploit that," Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky, Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker all agreed that something was a little bit off about the Baylor Bears tonight, but credited themselves with making that happen. Associate head coach Greg Gard also reasoned the Badgers played a large role in making Baylor feel uncomfortable.
"I think they were a little out of sorts," Gard said of the Bears, "But a lot of that had to do with the guys in white."
Baylor had led for all but one minute and four seconds in its previous two tournament games, so playing from behind was something they were not used to doing.
"That was probably exactly it, they got out to that really early lead," Baylor guard Gary Franklin said. "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."
The Badgers outscored the Bears 16-6 in the paint, 6-0 in second chance points, 8-2 in bench points and 4-0 in points off turnovers in the first half. Wisconsin dished out 11 assists to Baylor's four, blocked four shots to Baylor's one and outrebounded Baylor 20-15 in the first half.
Wisconsin led 29-16 at halftime, marking the first time all season Baylor failed to score 21 points or more in the first half.
"You can tell they were a little frustrated with their offense. When things weren't going the right way, it kind of transferred over to their defense," Kaminsky said. "That was easy to see and we were able to get some easy baskets. It's great to have a team effort like that."
Twenty minutes in the locker room did nothing to change the script, as the Badgers scored eight of the first 10 points of the second half, extending their lead to as many as 21.
The lead hovered between 21 and 15 for the final 10 minutes of the half, as the Badgers held the Bears to 40.6 percent in the second half and 31.6 percent for the game.
Wisconsin will face the winner between Arizona and San Diego State on Saturday. If you ask the Badgers, they're confident regardless of their chances.
"We're playing some of our best basketball of the year right now," Kaminsky said. "I don't think it matters who we play next because we'll be ready for whomever."
Kaminsky had a game-high 19 points, 4 rebounds and a game-high 6 blocks to lead the Badgers.
Ben Brust had 14 points.
Traevon Jackson had a game-high 5 assists to go with 7 points.
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