Starting out slow in its first two tournament games, second-seeded Wisconsin made quick work out of sixth-seeded Baylor in a 69-52 walloping at the Honda Center Thursday night.
Frank Kaminsky scored a game-high 19 points to go along with a career-high six blocks, as the Badgers (29-7) shot 52 percent from the field and have won its first three tournament game by an average of 21.6 points.
Advancing to its first Elite Eight since 2005, Wisconsin will face Arizona (33-4), the West Region's top seed, Saturday night, with the winner moving on to the national semifinals in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"We're not satisfied," said junior Josh Gasser, as Wisconsin improved to 2-4 in Sweet 16 games under Ryan's watch. "We played well, but we'll need to play better against Arizona … if we want to keep playing."
It's hard to imagine Wisconsin can get any better after what Gasser and his teammates unleashed on Baylor in the first meeting between the two programs.
The Badgers trailed by seven and 14 points in the first halves of their games against American and Oregon, respectively, last weekend in Milwaukee, but broke the mold against a Baylor team brimming with length and athleticism in the low post and a vaunted 1-3-1 zone defense.
In the first 20 minutes, Wisconsin broke the zone by going on a pair of 8-0 runs and a 7-0 run, doing most of its damage in the low post courtesy of Kaminsky. Scoring eight of UW's first 10 points, Kaminsky did all his offensive damage in the paint. The Badgers carved out a 16 points in the paint in the first half and went after 7-1 shot blocker Isaiah Austin early and often, eventually drawing a pair of first-half fouls to send him to the bench.
"We were just able to attack him," said Kaminsky. "He was a great shot blocker, but we knew we needed to go at him and try to get him out of the game. If they don't have that length in there they won't block as many shots. So it's just something we made a point of doing, and went out there and did it.
When Kaminsky wasn't carving up the paint, senior Ben Brust (14 points) sank 3-pointers or Nigel Hayes provided a lift off the bench, scoring six of his 10 points and securing five of his six rebounds in the first half.
On the flip side, the Bears (26-12) missed 12 of their first 15 shots in rout to scoring a season-low 16 first half points. Despite all its size on the interior, the Bears managed only six points in the paint. That also was a nod to Kaminsky, who had blocks on three straight possessions in the first half.
"He's just a great player," said Cory Jefferson, who led Baylor with 15 points. "Offensively he has a good skillset, a 7 footer that can shoot it. He's a multi movement around the rim, so when you have a seven footer that does that, that's also hard because if you think you're going to give him the first shot it's easy. So you go try to block it, but he uses another move and finishes pretty well. On the defensive end he affected shots."
Wisconsin shot 48.1 percent in the first half, using timely ball fakes to create clear lanes and stayed patient offensively to find the open man in the Baylor zone. The result was Wisconsin registered 10 assists on its first 11 field goals and 18 of 26 for the game.
Kaminsky may have brought the offense, but the Badgers' five starters each filled a vital area of the stat sheet. Traevon Jackson had five assists to two turnovers, Brust went 3-for-5 from 3-point range and Gasser grabbed a team-high eight rebounds despite going 0-for-5 from the floor.
Despite going up against a front court with a 7-1 center and a 6-9 forward with three guards under 6-3, Wisconsin outrebounded Baylor, 39-33, with its three guards (Gasser, Traevon Jackson (7) and Brust (6)) outrebounding the Bears' three post players 21-17.
The Bears had averaged 14.0 second chance points per game, but were held scoreless in the category in the first half and finished with just seven.
After trailing for only 7 minutes, 24 seconds during 240 previous minutes of postseason play this year, Baylor trailed for all but 1:36 in the game and were behind by double digits for the final 25:38.
"We just never could get consecutive baskets when you're 2 for 15 from three," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "You needed a couple of them to go in. Again, the toughest thing is trying to pressure those guys because they don't turn it over. They're the best in the country."
After needing a spirited second-half comeback in the third-round win over Oregon, the Badgers stayed aggressive but practically cruised to the finish line by building a lead that reached as much as 21, countering everything Baylor threw at them with veteran patience and pure ball movement.
"In these types of games, it's going to be a battle for all 40 minutes," said Dekker. ‘When we can get a lead and get comfortable, it's a whole different feel. We didn't have to fight for all 40 minutes like we did against Oregon."
Less than a week after bouncing third-steed Creighton by shooting 63.8 percent from the floor and 61.1 percent from 3-point range, Baylor shot 31.0 percent overall (18-for-58) and a paltry 2-for-15 (13.3 percent) from 3-point range.
The Bears were making their third Sweet 16 trip in five years, but advanced no farther because Wisconsin held Austin to 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting, three-point marksman Brady Heslip to 1-for-4 from 3-point range and point guard Kenny Chery, the man responsible for Baylor having won 12 of its last 14 entering the Sweet 16, to 2-for-9 shooting.
Heslip and Chery both averaged over 11 points per game.
Baylor also abandoned its zone in favor of man-to-man defense to try to slow down Wisconsin. It didn't work, which means the Badgers are 40 minutes away from their first Final Four in 14 years.
"In order to get to a point like that, we got to do all the same things we've been doing to get to this point, which is focus one at a time for whoever we have," said Brust. "When that time comes, we'll handle it."