Big Ten teams stare down adversity & advance

It was exhilarating. It was exhausting. And it may end up being a very memorable win for Wisconsin. Trailing 75-74, Wisconsin not once, not twice, but three times grabbed offensive rebounds before Ben Brust finally drained a 3-pointer to give Wisconsin a 77-75 lead over Oregon.

It was the defining possession in a third-round NCAA game that Wisconsin fans may look back on in a few weeks as the key moment in the key game during a deep NCAA run.

[ MORE: Wisconsin rallies past Oregon to make Sweet 16 ]

The Brust triple basically sealed the win for the No. 2 Badgers, who took an 85-77 decision over No. 7 Oregon in a game of two distinctly different halves.

This one was all about overcoming the adversity of a bad first half for the Badgers, who allowed a whopping 49 points in the opening 20 minutes and trailed by 12 at the half, 49-37. The Ducks had 19 fast-break points to the Badgers’ three.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

But the second half was a different story. Wisconsin outscored Oregon, 48-28. Time and again, the Badgers went to big man Frank Kaminsky, who hit 8-of-15 shots and finished with a team-high 19 points. He also had five rebounds, as Wisconsin had all five starters in double-figures.

The Badgers outscored Oregon 27-12 to start the second half, as UW led 64-61 with 10:52 left. Wisconsin led 10-9 in the first half, and the Badgers didn’t lead again until the 13-minute mark of the second half after Kaminsky drained a jumper to give Wisconsin a 59-58 lead. Jackson followed with a triple to give the Badgers a 62-58 edge. Josh Gasser then hit a layup to make it 64-58.

But the Ducks battled back to tie the game at 72. From there, the Badgers took over and outscored Oregon, 13-5, over the final 3:50 of the game to seal the win and advance.

The Badgers will play the winner of the No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 6 Baylor game in the Sweet 16 in Anaheim in the West region.

Maybe more than any other game this season, this one epitomized how different this Badgers team is from previous Bo Ryan Wisconsin teams. This is an offensively skilled squad that can score well from any position on the court and from any spot on the court.

Yes, the defense isn’t what it typically has been under Ryan’s watch in Madison. But, it doesn’t have to be with a team as skilled on the offensive end as this one. The Badgers hit 48 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. Four different players hit threes for Wisconsin.

This was a test. And Wisconsin passed it. This also was a confidence builder for the Badgers, who have stared down adversity and laughed in its face. Wisconsin surely will face tough times in the coming weeks, but this team won’t panic knowing it can rally and comeback—like it did tonight in Milwaukee vs. Oregon.

***

Michigan State can relate to Wisconsin. The Spartans got pushed to the wall by No. 12 Harvard in yet the latest dose of adversity that Tom Izzo’s team has faced many times in this trying season. In fact, at one point in the second half, MSU trailed the Crimson. But the Spartans kept their composure, regained the lead and won the game, 80-73. This team is unflappable.

[ MORE: Michigan State pulls away late, moves on to Sweet 16 ]

Branden Dawson—the Big Ten tourney MVP–scored a career-high 26 points with nine boards, as MSU hit 49 percent of its shots. The Spartans will play the winner of the No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Memphis game in the Sweet 16 in New York.

The NCAA tourney isn’t about style points. This isn’t figure skating. It’s about surviving and advancing. And that’s just what Wisconsin and Michigan State did tonight.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (1 Comment)
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Spartan in Los Angeles on 3/23/2014 @ 5:41pm EDT Said:

Spartan Dawgs responded well to the challenge, this is a versatile team with many weapons that is well suited to handle any style of play

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