OMAHA, Neb.—The Wisconsin Badgers’ performance Friday night wasn’t their best or most exciting of the season, but it was still more than enough to send them into the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.
Fueled by a 27-point performance from senior forward Frank Kaminsky, the No. 1-seeded Badgers (32-3) cruised to an 86-72 victory over No. 16-seed Coastal Carolina at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. That 32nd win set the school record for victories.
Kaminsky also grabbed 12 rebounds to finish with his 12th double-double of the season and his second in the last four games.
However, he wasn’t the only Badger forward who had a big night, as junior Sam Dekker and sophomore Nigel Hayes were both dominant as well.
Dekker scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting and Hayes finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, including seven on offense, to help lead the Badgers past the Chanticleers (24-10).
Going up against a Coastal Carolina team whose tallest player is 6-foot-8, the UW frontcourt imposed its collective will on the Chanticleer defense, combining to score 62 points. As a team, Wisconsin outrebounded Coastal Carolina 36-25.
“We definitely had a clear size advantage, so we wanted to exploit that as much as we could,” redshirt senior guard Josh Gasser said. “The thing that stayed consistent with us was pounding the ball inside to Frank, Sam and Nigel.”
Though the Badgers did outscore Coastal Carolina in the paint by a 40-24 margin, they also attempted a surprising number of 3-pointers given their drastic size advantage.
27 of Wisconsin’s 61 shots came from beyond the arc, with the Badgers hitting 11 of them. Kaminsky and Dekker both found success from 3-point range, going 3-for-5 and 4-for-8, respectively.
Dekker’s performance from long range was particularly impressive given that he had gone just 4-for-25 from 3-point range in the eight games prior to Friday night’s win.
Though they eventually pulled away in the second half, the Badgers weren’t able to shake the Chanticleers in the early stages of the game. Coastal Carolina, and particularly senior guard Josh Cameron, traded blows with Wisconsin on offense for much of the first half.
Cameron, a native of Racine, Wisconsin, scored the Chanticleers’ first eight points and started the game 3-for-3 from 3-point range, scoring 11 points within the first 13 minutes.
But the Badgers used a 19-8 run at the end of the first half to take a 47-32 lead into the locker room, and Coastal Carolina was never really able to get within striking distance the rest of the way.
Senior guard Warren Gillis and sophomore guard Elijah Wilson scored 22 and 20 points, respectively, to lead the Chanticleers, who shot 48.3 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from 3-point range in their unsuccessful bid to become the first No. 16 seed in NCAA Tournament history to bring down a No. 1 seed.
At one point in the first half, Coastal Carolina was shooting 61.1 percent overall and 83.3 percent from beyond the arc, yet still was trailing by 11.
“We were very efficient offensively. We shot close to 50 percent, and you can’t ask for much better than that,” Cameron said. “It was those three big men. We couldn’t keep them off the glass, and they just hurt us down low.”
The Badgers will now move on to play the No. 8-seeded Oregon Ducks Sunday evening at approximately 6:45 p.m. in a rematch from last year’s NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin and Oregon also met in the third round last season, where UW used a second-half rally to come from behind in a thrilling 85-77 victory.
Though the Ducks will be looking for redemption, Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis thinks that it will be a tall task for them or anyone else in the West Region to bring down the Badgers.
“[The Badgers] are solid all the way through. They’re going to be a tough out for whomever, I will say that,” Ellis said. “I saw them in the Final Four last year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them back there again.”