With 9:52 left in the first half Wisconsin Badgers fans were staring disconcertingly at a scoreboard informing them their team was somehow losing 17-10 to No. 15-seed American. This was some kind of nightmare for Bo Ryan - known for his NCAA Tournament struggles, especially after a first-round exit last year - and the Badgers faithful.
Luckily for Ryan, his team quickly awoke from that nightmare, allowing the American University Eagles to score a mere 18 total points over the final 29 minutes, 52 seconds. The final score read 75-35, revealing very little in the way of any Wisconsin struggles.
At the beginning of the game the Badgers had a difficult time adjusting to the Princeton-style offense run by American. The screen and rolls and backdoor cuts - staples of the Princeton Offense - were effective and efficient in helping American jump out to an early lead. The Eagles made five of their first nine shots, including two three-pointers, sparking a 12-0 run mid-way through the half.
Wisconsin could not find their offense out of the gate, missing on eight of their first 12 shots while committing an uncharacteristic four turnovers. It was ugly, and the Badger-heavy crowd was starting to sweat just a bit more than anticipated.
The Eagles will always remember that spirited first ten minutes of play, with Wisconsin on the ropes and red-clad Badger fans throughout the crowd sitting in stunned silence. They will likely try to forget everything that happened after those early moments.
Wisconsin finished the first half on a 19-3 scoring binge, led by senior Ben Brust, who had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting.
The second half saw the Badgers turn the defensive intensity to all the way up to 11. The Eagles shot 3-for-19 in the second half. They had nearly three times as many turnovers - 8 - as they did made field goals. With six minutes left in the game American had only connected on one field goal in the entire second half.
The Badgers offense was humming, hitting 15-of-26 field goals and committing only three turnovers. The 10-point Wisconsin halftime lead quickly ballooned to a ridiculous 34-point advantage on the strength of a 28-4 Badger run.
The Badgers 43 points in the second half were eight more than American had in the entire game. It was a thorough and complete dismantling. Any momentum American may have had walking back out of the locker room for another half of basketball was completely eviscerated by Ryan's adjusted game plan and the Badgers renewed intensity.
The only scare the Badgers had in the second half was Sam Dekker coming down awkwardly on his ankle, having to leave the game for an extended period around the ten minute mark. All indications are that he is fine, so there should be no real concern on that front.
Ryan has to be happy with how his team responded to some unexpected adversity, especially on the offensive end. Traveon Jackson had a terrific game, finishing with 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Ben Brust performed in his usual sharpshooter capacity, going for 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range.
The defense was lethargic at first, but found a swift kick to the derriere was all they needed to really wake up. Sam Dekker was a menace and Frank Kaminsky adjusted his defense nicely on Tony Wroblicky after the American center got off to a hot start.