Wisconsin Squashes Belmont's Upset Bid, 72-58

The Wisconsin Badgers were picked against by just about every major pundit. Why? They'd put up a pitiful 33 points against Penn State and had Ohio State ignite for an absolutely insane 3 point percentage. Never mind the fact that Wisconsin hadn't lost in the first round as a higher seed under Bo Ryan, ever. Never mind the fact that Wisconsin was able to contend with every team on their schedule (save Ohio State in the Columbus massacre). Never mind the fact that Belmont had never won an NCAA Tournament game.

When it came time to put up, the Belmont Bruins did not live up to the giant-slayers that ESPN portrayed them as. Belmont had put up an impressive 30-4 regular season record, and had an absolutely insane turnover ratio. But Belmont did not play one team that played at Wisconsin's slow offensive pace.

Which meant that when Wisconsin's defense smothered their outside shooting game, the Bruins had to turn inside. And they didn't get nearly enough inside shots to pull out the win, because Wisconsin was able to connect from outside over and over again. The barrage of threes would irrevocably turn the tide late in the second half in Wisconsin's favor.

Wisconsin would get a team-best 22 points from Jon Leuer and 21 more from Jordan Taylor. And while no other player on the Badgers broke into double figures, just about everyone else on Wisconsin pitched in: Ryan Evans had 4 points, Jared Berggren 6 points (on a pair of threes), Tim Jarmusz and Keaton Nankivil 5 points each, and Mike Bruesewitz pitched in a team-best 9 rebounds and 8 points off the bench. All told, Wisconsin shot 50% from the floor and 54% from beyond the arc. But the Badgers were hindered by having more turnovers (14) than assists (13), in no small part due to Belmont's harassing defense.

Belmont had a very heavy bench, one that averaged 39 points per game in the regular season. The Bruins loved to make substitutions, and at one point, they had 3 fewer substitutions (52) than they did points (55). But Wisconsin shut down the Belmont bench, holding them to a grand total of 20 points. Belmont's offense quickly became a one-man show, with Mick Hedgepeth recording a team-high 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Kerron Johnson added in 13 points, Jordan Campbell 9, and Scott Saunders 6, but they were nowhere near enough to compensate for Wisconsin's team effort.

All told, Belmont had 12 assists to 7 turnovers. But their poor shooting (36% from the floor and 27% from beyond the arc) did them in. Wisconsin outrebounded Belmont 33-22, a fairly commanding margin that became more and more pronounced as the game went further along.

Wisconsin now faces the winner of Utah State and Kansas State in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. This is the 9th time in Bo Ryan's 10 years at Wisconsin that the Badgers have advanced to the round of 32.

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