Wisconsin’s 33-point debacle in the Big Ten tournament? Forget about it.
The Badgers scored more than that in one half of their 72-58 win over13-seed Belmont on Thursday and avoided an early exit from the Big Dance. They handled Belmont’s press, found their shooting stroke (12 of 22 from beyond the arc) and hounded the Bruins into a poor shooting night.
That’s a satisfying result for a team 20 percent of brackets had losing in the first round.
“Oh, I never stopped believing in the team. There was never any doubts there,” coach Bo Ryan said. “You put young people in the positions, you try to give them what you can, sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes they do, but when there is a consensus on how you want to get things done and everybody’s going in the same direction, you always know that if there’s a hiccup, you just get ready for the next one.”
Next up? Winning a second-round game.
The Badgers have been a top 5 seed in four of the past five years, but have only been to the Sweet 16 once in that span. Whether it’s been matchups against teams on a roll (Davidson) or teams that couldn’t miss (Cornell), they’re due for a breakthrough.
The offense is too efficient and Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer are too good. It’s a team that believes in its deliberate style, even it does have detractors.
That might very well be enough. Well, that and hitting a bunch of 3-pointers again.
“We can only control what we’re doing. Coach has preached that throughout the season,” Taylor said. “So we come in and look at what they can do and how we can stop them and what we can do to neutralize that. We don’t really go into a game thinking they play exactly like us. It’s just: How are we going neutralize this team?”
Wisconsin will face the Kansas State-Utah State winner on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
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