Wisconsin wasn’t at its best against Oregon. Fortunately for the Badgers, they didn’t have to be to earn a return trip to the Sweet 16.
The Badgers beat the Ducks for the second straight year in the NCAA tournament’s Round of 32, this time 72-65 at CenturyLink Center on Sunday night.
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Wisconsin had its worst shooting game in a month and got outrebounded by the smaller Ducks, and Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky was quiet offensively for long stretches.
Still, the Badgers (33-3) were able to get out to a quick lead and hold on, and now they’re headed to the regional semifinals for the fourth time in five years. The West’s No. 1 seed will play No. 4 North Carolina on Thursday in Los Angeles.
"We’re definitely excited and thrilled to be there, but we’re not as in awe or shocked as we were last year," Nigel Hayes said. "Last year, we were jumping around up and down on the court, celebrating. This time, it was `Hoo-rah, good job guys. We have the next game to take care of.’"
Sam Dekker scored 17 points, hitting a couple big baskets after Oregon (26-10) had tied it late. Kaminsky had 16 points, with no shot bigger than his putback of Hayes’ missed free throw to make it a 10-point game with 44 seconds left.
Hayes had 14 points and Bronson Koenig added 12.
Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young, who scored 27 points in a win over Oklahoma State on Friday, had 30 against the Badgers.
"We had ourselves in a position against an experienced, well-coached and very good team," Ducks coach Dana Altman said. "I’m sorry we couldn’t get it finished off for these guys so we could keep playing."
Wisconsin played with the lead all game until Dwayne Benjamin tied it at 52 with a high-arcing 3-pointer from in front of his bench with 5:27 left. The Badgers took the lead right back, though, with Dekker’s reverse layup and 3-pointer to make it 58-52.
"Oregon made their run to fight back," Dekker said, "just as a good team always does. And good teams respond to those runs. We settled in, and guys weren’t going to get too riled up. We got a big 6-0 run there and opened up the lead and held on from there. It’s a game of runs, and you’ve got to respond at the right time."
Jalil Abdulu-Bassit had 12 points for the Ducks, who were trying to get to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.
The size advantage that Wisconsin was supposed to enjoy against Oregon wasn’t much of an advantage at all. Oregon outrebounded the Badgers 34-32, outscored them 30-24 in the lane and had four blocks to Wisconsin’s three.
"At this point," guard Josh Gasser said, "I don’t care if we play like crap and still win. We did some good things, we did some bad things."
Credit Oregon for causing Wisconsin to shoot just 43 percent from the field and go 7 for 23 on 3-pointers.
"I knew they were going to throw a lot of different things at us — double teams, triple teams, pressure up and down the court," Kaminsky said. "When that happens, there’s bound to be a lot of missed shots."
Oregon, which shot 55 percent against Oklahoma State on Friday, shot 44.1 percent and needed some time to get its offense going. Young had a couple shots rim out and missed his first five, and Elijah Cook couldn’t finish what should have been an easy dunk off a Young lob.
Once Young started connecting, the Ducks were right back in it.
Oregon: Joseph Young tied Terrell Brandon for most points in a season by an Oregon player, with 745… Jordan Bell finished the season with a school-record 94 blocks. … Oregon lost for the first time when shooting a higher percentage than its opponent.
Wisconsin: Josh Gasser has played in a school-record 13 NCAA tournament games. … Wisconsin is 21-13 in the NCAA tournament under Bo Ryan.
ZAK’S BIG MOMENT
Wisconsin reserve guard Zak Showalter, who averages two points a game, made a 3-pointer and reverse layup on consecutive possessions to extend the Badgers’ three-point lead to 45-37 in the middle of the second half.
"I always try to stay ready," he said. "I know some of the things that have been said about our bench, and we want to prove ourselves."
Oregon’s season ends one win short of the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.
Wisconsin plays North Carolina in the West Region semifinals on Thursday.