Josh Gasser found plenty of holes in Kansas State's interior defense, coming up with 11 points and the game-clinching free throws as Wisconsin held off the Wildcats 70-65.
Jacob Pullen hit 3 after 3, en route to becoming Kansas State's all-time leading scorer. By contrast, Jordan Taylor missed shot after shot. But when it came to crunch time, Taylor came up with a block of Pullen that would set up the game-clinching free throws by Josh Gasser. And Taylor made every single one of his free throws, something that Wisconsin needed given his struggles from the floor in this game.
All told, Wisconsin withstood everything that K-State threw at them, matching the Wildcats punch for punch en route to their first win in the Round of 32 since 2007-08. Their next opponent? Not Pitt, which many people expected to make the Final Four, including the Commander-in-Chief. No, Wisconsin will play last year's Cinderella: The Butler Bulldogs. Yikes.
How was Wisconsin able to do what they did? How did they withstand Pullen's outburst? Find out after the jump.
The Wisconsin Badgers, rather than folding under Pullen's performance, shone as a unit. Four players broke into double figures: the reliable Jon Leuer pitching in a team best 19, and Jordan Taylor adding 12 (but Taylor had an awful day from the floor, going 2 of 16). Add in 11 points from Josh Gasser, who cut his way through K-State's defense (and hit the free throws to clinch the game), and 11 more from Mike Bruesewitz, who provided a much-needed boost of energy from the bench, and Wisconsin was well-situated to win. Jordan Taylor had 6 assists and no turnovers; his assists were a team-high. Leuer and Gasser tied for the team lead in rebounds, with 7 apiece, and Bruesewitz was close behind with 6 of his own.
For the Kansas St. Wildcats...Pullen was almost all there was. 38 points, on 13 of 22 shooting, 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. But after Pullen, only one K-State player eclipsed double figures: Curtis Kelly, with 11 points. After that, Jamar Samuels was Kansas State's next highest scorer, with 8 points. Kelly and Samuels tied for their team-lead in rebounds, both hauling in 9 boards. Pullen and G Rodney McGruder tied for their team-high in assists, but with a paltry 2 assists apiece.
Kansas State was able to win the battle of the boards (32-30) but was not able to win the battle of assist:turnover ratio (having only 7 assists to 8 turnovers). Wisconsin got to the line 23 times and converted 19 times, an 82% success rate. Whereas K-State had 22 free throw attempts but just 15 conversions (a 68% success rate). It's safe to say the Wildcats needed every single one of their missed free throws in this game.
Wisconsin hasn't been to the Sweet Sixteen in three years. They will face a very tough Butler team in the next round. Who will advance to the Elite Eight?