OMAHA, Neb. - The top seed in the West Region, Wisconsin knew it would have the distinct size advantage over 16th-seed Coastal Carolina. It was just a matter of whether or not the Badgers would be able to take advantage of it.
They did all right, as Wisconsin’s tall, athletic front court had a field day.
Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes combined to score 62 points, grab 22 rebounds, delivered nine assists, hit eight 3-pointers and make four 3-point plays, easily setting the tone for the Badgers 86-72 victory over the Chanticleers in the NCAA tournament second round Friday night in Omaha, Neb.
Kaminsky finished with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, Dekker had 20 and Hayes had 15 and 8 for Wisconsin (32-3), which set a new program record for single season wins, improved the Badgers to 12-2 in their first NCAA tournament game under Coach Bo Ryan and kept No.1 seeds 124-0 against No.16 seeds in the tournament’s history.
Hoping to duplicate last year’s Final Four run, the Badgers get a familiar opponent when it faces eighth-seed Oregon in the round of 32 Sunday at approximately 6:45 p.m. on truTV. The Ducks beat ninth-seed Oklahoma State, 79-73, prior to UW’s game. A year ago, the Badgers erased a 12-point first-half deficit to win 85-77 over the Ducks in a third-round game in Milwaukee.
“It’s going to be one you want to lace your shoes up a little tighter for,” said Dekker.
It also should provide the Badgers a little bit better test. With a distinct size advantage across the board, Wisconsin led by 15 at halftime, as many 24 in the second half and were rarely threatened after a first half in which it shot 54.8 percent, scored 40 points on its final 21 possessions, went 8 of 17 from 3-point range, had only two turnovers in 27 possessions and averaged over 1.7 points per possession.
“I think we did a good job of making shots,” said Hayes. “Making shots is part of the game; it's always a good thing to do, and that comes from us being unselfish. We play as a team. We don't want to just rush, hurry shots or one guy try to score as many as he can. We find the open guy, and when we play like that, we're able to play as efficiently as we are.”
And to really be bullies, Wisconsin’s bigs did a good portion of its damage from the perimeter, especially Dekker. Entering the game 4 of 25 from 3-point range in his last eight games, Dekker went 3-for-6 in the first half and scored 13 of his points.
All three of UW’s frontcourt starters were in double figures by the break, as Hayes had 13 points and eight rebounds (seven on the offensive glass) and Kaminsky had 12 after hitting a 3-pointer from the wing before the halftime buzzer. The trio combined to go 6 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half.
“We did a really good job of giving them the ball and they did a very good job of finishing,” said sophomore Bronson Koenig. “They were on fire.”
Warren Gillis scored 22, Elijah Wilson had 20 and Racine-native Josh Cameron had 11 for Coastal Carolina (24-10), which couldn’t duplicate the scare they put into top-seeded Virginia when they lead the Cavilers by 10 in the first half and five at halftime. Trying to mix defenses to throw Wisconsin off its game, the Chanticleers were outscored 40-24 in the paint and outrebounded 36-25.
“Hopefully that will be a staple of our team in the tournament,” said Kaminsky.
Coastal Carolina shot 52.0 percent (13 of 25) in the first half, but still was well behind on the scoreboard.
“We shot close to 50 percent, and you can't ask for much better than that,” said Cameron. “It was those three big men. We wouldn't keep 'em off the glass, and they just hurt us down low. They really hurt us. If you look at the stat sheet, they had basically all their points, so they killed us down there.”
Coastal Carolina – the Big South champions - were ahead of 5-4 and 8-7, but the Badgers’ size soon took over. Starting with Kaminsky’s bucket in the paint, Wisconsin went on a 15-4 run with a combination of post touches and perimeter jumpers.
After the two teams mostly matched one another possession for possession, Wisconsin closed the half on a 19-4 run with 3-pointers, free throws and points in the paint. UW’s and Hayes’ low-post dominance were on display in a three possession span.
After hustling for two offensive rebounds that eventually set up a Koenig 3-pointer, and a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game, Hayes registered a steal and drew a foul and then grabbed three offensive rebounds – twice rebounding his own miss – before registered a two-point put back.
From that point forward, it was all Wisconsin.
“It was good to start out like that,” said Kaminsky. “We’ve got to keep this momentum going. We shot the ball well, we moved the ball well, we played some pretty good defense. Coastal Carolina came out and shot the lights out of the ball. If we can keep playing like we are, I think we’ll be fine.”