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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Ben Brust

Senior guard Ben Brust moved into sole possession of UW's career 3-point shooting record in the NCAA tournament game against Oregon.

Men's Basketball: Second-half surge sends Wisconsin to Sweet 16

MILWAUKEE, Wis.—The ability to overcome adversity has boded well for the success of Wisconsin this season, and it proved true again Saturday night when its season was on the line.

The Badgers were tested by Oregon in every aspect of the game, but found the will to push through and defeat the Fighting Ducks 85-77 and earn a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was a battle from the get-go, as both teams were playing with the knowledge that it could be their last game.

Sophomore forward Sam Dekker provided a spark for the Wisconsin offense in the early going, scoring UW’s first five points and igniting the dense red crowd.

The Ducks gave UW a zone look on defense to start, and the Badgers countered it with their 3-point shooting. Both senior guard Ben Brust and freshman guard Bronson Koenig buried shots from beyond the arc to start the game. 

As for Oregon, it was senior forward Mike Moser who found his way to the rim to score seven points in the first few minutes of the game. Moser’s run was put to a halt after he got his second foul and would go to the bench for the remainder of the half.

Midway through the half, Oregon began to gain momentum and control of the game. It switched to a man-to-man defense and locked down Wisconsin, forcing turnovers and poor shots.

The odds seemed to be even further turned against UW after Dekker left the game with an apparent mouth injury, not returning until the second half.

As if things couldn’t get worse for the Badgers, a somewhat questionable technical foul was given to the Wisconsin bench.

“I was trying to clap to get my guys ready to go,” said head coach Bo Ryan. “I was probably getting a little too rambunctious on the sideline.”

Oregon guard Joseph Young caught fire in the latter part of the first half, despite UW’s best defensive efforts. The redshirt junior scored 17 first-half points, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped shed a Wisconsin push.

With all of the momentum, Oregon rose to a 14-point lead with just seconds remaining in the half, until redshirt junior Duje Dukan hit a layup, putting the score at 49-37 in favor of the Ducks at halftime.

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The Badgers once again seemed to be most successful when getting the ball to junior forward Frank Kaminsky, who led the Badgers at the half with eight points.

The second half took a turn for a struggling Wisconsin team. The Badgers completely switched gears and went on a 17-6 run, fully igniting the arena.

“I can’t say enough about our fans tonight,” Dekker said. “That’s the loudest gym I’ve been in in a long time.”

Every shot seemed to be falling for UW in the early minutes of the second half.

Following a 3-pointer by junior guard Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin took a 62-58 lead with 12:45 to play, and it was the Badgers who stole the momentum in the electric BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The Fighting Ducks would not back down easily, however.

Led by Young, Oregon paved its way for a comeback of its own, regaining a 75-74 lead with less than three minutes to play. 

With 1:07 left in the game, Brust hit a 3 to regain the lead.

“As soon as I let it go, I knew it was going down, which was a good feeling,” Brust said.

The Badgers would hang onto the lead and pull out the comeback victory, 85-77.

“To be able to handle that smack in the face in the first half and come back and deliver one of our own says a lot about this group,” Ryan said.

All five of the Badger starters scored in double-digit points, but it was Kaminsky who had a team-high 19 points in what was one of the season’s most physical games.

“It’s tournament time and no one wants to go home,” Kaminsky said. “You’re doing whatever you can to stay in. If that means being physical down low with anyone, it’s a battle.”

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