ANAHEIM, Calif. >> Frank Kaminsky scored 19 points and blocked six shots, and Wisconsin romped into the West Regional final with a dominant 69-52 victory over Baylor on Thursday night.
Ben Brust hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 points for the second-seeded Badgers (29-7), who jumped to a 14-point lead in the first half and never let up on the overmatched Bears (26-12).
The 7-foot Kaminsky and his disciplined teammates shredded the Baylor zone defense that played so well in the first two games. Wisconsin also methodically shut down Baylor’s talented offense while moving into its second regional final in 13 years under Bo Ryan, who has never reached a Final Four in a 700-win coaching career.
Cory Jefferson scored 15 points for the sixth-seeded Bears, who did little with their third Sweet 16 trip in five years.
Isaiah Austin and Kenny Chery scored 12 points apiece for Baylor, which made two of its 15 3-point attempts while trailing for the final 39 minutes. The Bears needed a late rally just to match their lowest-scoring performance of the season in the final seconds.
Wisconsin advanced to face the winner of top-seeded Arizona’s meeting with San Diego State in the regional final Saturday at Honda Center.
The Badgers won by countering everything the Bears do well. Wisconsin wrecked Baylor’s zone, negated their 3-point shooting acumen with perimeter defense, kept the tempo at the Badgers’ preferred speed and even held a 39-33 rebounding edge on Baylor, one of the nation’s top rebounding teams.
Kaminsky added another remarkable performance to his junior season with the Badgers, racking up 10 points and four blocked shots while Wisconsin took a 29-16 lead into halftime.
Wisconsin held Baylor to a season-low in first-half points, and the Bears managed just one more point than the lowest-scoring half in coach Scott Drew’s career at the school.
Three lower-bowl sections of the Anaheim Ducks’ home arena were packed with red-clad Badgers fans, who usually turn out in droves for their school’s trips to Southern California, including three straight recent trips to the Rose Bowl. They had little reason to worry while their Badgers quickly sapped all of the drama out of these schools’ first meeting, but they let loose with boos when Baylor began intentionally fouling the Badgers in the final four minutes despite a 20-point deficit.
Wisconsin is in its 16th straight NCAA tournament, including all 13 years under Ryan, who took over the program in 2001. The Badgers haven’t been to the Final Four since retired coach Dick Bennett got them to Indianapolis in 2000.
Baylor won’t get the chance to play in the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, about 100 miles north of its Waco campus.
Baylor’s flexible zone defense caused numerous problems for Nebraska and Creighton in the Bears’ victories last week. With a few days to prepare, Ryan clearly figured out exactly how to attack it — and the Bears had no answers.
The Badgers got multiple open looks on nearly every possession in the first half, moving the ball around the perimeter for open 3-point attempts or getting it down low to Kaminsky, who scored eight of Wisconsin’s first 10 points. Brust hit two 3-pointers in the first half, and only a few open misses prevented Wisconsin from blowing it open early.
On the other end, the Bears had little of the poise they showed in their first two games. Baylor missed 12 of its first 15 shots and finished 5-for-24 in the first half, making just one 3-pointer and falling behind by 14 late in the half.
Baylor finally abandoned the zone early in the second half, but Traevon Jackson hit a 3-pointer for Wisconsin on the next possession. The Bears showed their athleticism and skill with several one-man drives to the hoop in the second half, but the Badgers calmly stuck to their plan in a blowout win.