No one had any clue where the Badgers level of play was at after throwing out their worst two performances of the season the two games before the NCAA Tournament. The Ohio State contest was a fiasco. The Penn State loss was an embarrassment.
So with the Badgers drawing an under-seeded 13 seed in Belmont, and coming in as every analysts favorite upset pick, it would have shocked no one to see Wisconsin go home early.
Instead, Taylor put together the kind of performance that frustrates opposing coaches to no end, nailing shots he has no business making and forcing the pace of play in the Badgers favor.
Wisconsin rediscovered the shooting stroke that made them the most efficient offense in the country for 99 percent of the season, nailing 12-of-22 three pointers to bury Belmont with their own game. The 1.26 points per possession UW averaged is almost exactly in line with its season norm.
Leuer proved to be way to much to handle for the smaller mid-major, and was able to shoot over the top comfortably for 22 points on 12 shots.
Taylor, of course, was soul crushing. He handled the Belmont pressure with ease — playing 39 minutes — and hit five-of-nine three pointers, three of which came with less than five seconds left on the shot clock. You could feel the exasperation of the Bruins with each one of these daggers.
Still, the sublime shooting covered up some other miscues.
The Badgers turned the ball over 13 times, at least five of which were simply poor ball security and strips. Leuer in particular had trouble holding on to the ball in the post.
Worse, the Badgers allowed Belmont to hang around by failing to step on their throats when given the chance. Even though he led the team in scoring, Leuer was still not given enough opportunities in the post to do more damage. In fact, UW didn't manage a single post touch in the first seven minutes of the game, until Ryan Evans of all people got the ball with his back to the basket. Against a smaller team that didn't want to double team him on the block, Leuer should have been able to get 30 points with ease.
On the plus side, the bench provided a boost rarely seen this season. Bruesewitz' energy cannot be given a value. He makes the rest of the team pick it up. His steal and layup in the first half, led to a jump in play from the rest of the team.
On the one hand, Wisconsin held Belmont to their lowest scoring output of the season. On the other hand, that was probably due to pace of play rather than any defensive wizardry from the Badgers.
The 1.00 points per possession Belmont was held to is good, but certainly not dominant.
Surprisingly considering the size of the team's, the Bruins found most of their success inside. Their passes to the post over a front defender were textbook, and something the Badgers could use a lesson in.
The difference between the two teams was in the three point shooting. Belmont made just 6-of-22, about 10 percent lower than their average, and rushed many of the shots early in the shot clock. After struggling for the second half of Big Ten play with perimeter shooting, UW defenders were much quicker at closing down on shooters.
Every win at this point is a great victory.
True, UW could have played better, but it was a great stepping stone after the two stinkers the Badgers put up in the past two weeks.
Belmont was considered a huge upset pick for a reason. They were dangerous, and Wisconsin neutralized them early.