Badgers ground Ducks en route to Sweet Sixteen

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In a thrilling finish that capped off NCAA Tournament play in Milwaukee, Wisconsin rallied to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in four years in front of a very friendly BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd.

The Badgers came out on top in the fast-paced 85-77 contest thanks to great hustle from senior Ben Brust and sophomore Sam Dekker, and clutch free throw shooting by junior Traevon Jackson. A crowd of over 18,000, the majority dressed in Wisconsin red, witnessed the victory a little over an hour from the Kohl Center.

“This was a tough environment for their team,” coach Bo Ryan said. “They played hard, they played really well, but for our guys to have the regular season that they did, and get the seeds, it was definitely earned. And in order to get something done here tonight, we definitely had to earn that and our guys did. I’m awfully proud of them.”

After a tightly contested first 13 minutes, Oregon turned a 9-0 run into a 49-35 halftime lead. Wisconsin used a 16-3 run early in the second half to take a 62-58 lead, but the Ducks would rally again to take a 72-70 lead with 4:06 left in the contest.

Late in the second half, Dekker weaved through two Ducks for a pretty finish under the basket to tie the game at 72. At the other end, senior Josh Gasser leapt to corral an air ball setting up Jackson for two bonus free throws to take the lead with 3:05 left in the game.

Joseph Young knocked down his fourth and last 3-pointer with 2:50 left to put Oregon back up by one. Young powered the Ducks with a game-high 29 points for an outstanding performance in the losing effort.

“Joe has had games like that for us before, you know, where he gets it going,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He’s a good offensive player and I thought he played really well. We didn’t move the ball like we needed to, and we probably got too stagnant in a number of spots.”

On the ensuing possession, the Badgers hustled for three consecutive offensive rebounds and coach Bo Ryan called timeout with 1:26 on the clock.

Out of the stoppage, Wisconsin worked the ball around to find Brust who nailed a great look from beyond the arc to give the Badgers the lead for good.

“It was a wild sequence of events there,” Brust said. “I think Sam got it, threw it to Trae, and Trae just found me, and as soon as I let it go, I knew it was going down, which was a good feeling. Just knew we had to get back and play some defense because the game wasn’t over.”

With his team up 80-77, Jackson missed the back end of a double bonus and Oregon pounced on it to draw a jump ball.

Young raced to the far corner and took a rushed 3-pointer that bricked off rim and into the waiting hands of Dekker to seal the Badger victory. An intentional foul on Oregon led to more free throws for Jackson with less than a second to play.

While Oregon had its crowd-silencing moments from 3-point land, the Badgers used an advantage under the basket, where they secured 14 offensive rebounds, to rally to their biggest comeback win of the season.

Wisconsin will take on either Baylor or Creighton in a thrilling Sweet Sixteen showdown next weekend.