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No. 2 Wisconsin overcomes slow first half to reach Sweet 16

Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser

Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky (44) and Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser (21) celebrate during the second half of a third-round game against the Oregon in the NCAA college basketball tournament Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Milwaukee. Wisconsin won 82-77. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Jeffrey Phelps

Frank Kaminsky led five scorers in double-figures with 19 points as No. 2 Wisconsin overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to beat No. 7 Oregon, 85-77.

The Ducks were unconscious in the first half, thriving as the Badgers tried to run with them, but Oregon’s shots didn’t fall in the final 20 minutes. They were outscored 48-28 in that second 20 minutes as Wisconsin took advantage of the fact that the Bradley Center was jam-packed with Badger fans.

The win will send Wisconsin to Anaheim for the Sweet 16 where they will play the winner of tomorrow’s game No. 3 Creighton and No. 6 Baylor.

Wisconsin’s Achilles’ heel all season long has been their ability to defend on the perimeter, and that was evident in the first half against the Ducks. Joseph Young, who finished with 29 points, was able to get into the paint at will while Jason Calliste, who added 20 off the bench, made a living at the foul line.

But that defense tightened up significantly down the stretch, and if Bo Ryan can get his boys to play that way out west, they’ll have a chance to make some noise in Anaheim.

The biggest reason why is that they start three guards that, if needed, could seamlessly transition into the point guard role in Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser. All three have three-point range, all three hit their free throws and all three can avoid turnovers. As good as Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are, the reason that those two are able to get the ball in spots where they can be effective is a result of Wisconsin’s back court play.

There hasn’t been much discussion of the Badgers as a contender for the Final Four in the west, but the biggest reason for that was their matchup with Oregon. The Ducks just looked like they would have Wisconsin’s number, and, frankly, they did.

But Wisconsin was able to pull out the win, which means that this is a group that you are going to have to start paying attention to.

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