Dekker scored 14 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, including nine in the final 10 minutes, as Wisconsin never trailed in a 72-65 victory over eighth-seed Oregon in an NCAA tournament third round game at the CenturyLink Arena in Omaha.
Wisconsin (33-3) extended its winning streak to eight games and is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the past five years.
“I got out of sync and started trying to force some stuff,’’ Dekker said. “My teammates told me, ‘That half is over. Be yourself.’’’
Dekker was more like himself in the second half. He hit 5-of-8 shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.Frank Kaminsky added 16 for the Badgers, Nigel Hayes had 14 and Bronson Koenig added 12.
“We’re just very pleased to represent the Big Ten and our university in the Sweet 16,’’ said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “These guys definitely have had the kind of season where they’ve earned every inch of this. Hopefully we can go out to L.A. and get something done. I’m proud of these guys. That was a tough game. Pretty physical, some things got away from us, but we were able to corral all our talents and get it done.’’
Wisconsin led by as many as 11 midway through the first half before settling for a three-point halftime advantage, 31-28.
Oregon (26-10) continued to scrap in the second half and eventually pulled even at 52 on a 3-pointer by Dwayne Benjamin with 5:54 to play. But Wisconsin responded with a 6-0 run that extended to 10-2 as the Badgers were able to regain control of the game. In that run Koenig made a free throw, Dekker scored on a reverse layup and had a 3-pointer, Kaminsky scored inside and Koenig hit two more free throws.
“Coach just told us to settle in,’’ Dekker said. “We have guys that aren’t going to get too riled up. We’re just going to stay the course and play our basketball, and we got a big 6-0 run there, opened the lead and got a few stops and held it down from there.
“It’s a game of runs and you just have to be able to respond at the right times.’’
It was the second year in a row that Wisconsin knocked Oregon out of the NCAA tournament in the third round. Last year in the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Badgers won 85-77.
“We were playing basically the same team,’’ Koenig said. “We knew they were going to pressure us. We just stayed aggressive. We pretty much knew we would be shooting important free throws at the end.’’
Wisconsin made 21 of 29 free throws, including 16 of 22 in the second half. Koenig was 7 of 8 at the line. The Badgers made 8-of-10 free throws in the final 63 seconds.
Oregon senior guard Joseph Young, who was averaging 20.4 points per game, ended his career with another big effort against the Badgers. After scoring 29 points on 10 of 19 shooting in Milwaukee, Young had 30 on 12 of 25 shooting from the field.
Oregon coach Dana Altman said the key to the game was that his teams’ pressure was unable to force Wisconsin into turnovers. The Badgers only committed six in the game.
“We couldn’t get ‘em to turn it over against our press,’’ Altman said. “They only had six turnovers for the game. We were only able to get seven points off of those turnovers, and I thought that was a big key. We expended a lot of energy trying to get them out of their rhythm and trying to get a few turnovers but their experience and their guards handled it really well."