MILWAUKEE -- Midway through the first half, the Badgers had missed seven straight field goal attempts and American University's Jordan Reed canned a three-pointer to give the Eagles their largest lead of the game at 17-10.
Wisconsin senior guard Ben Brust responded with a triple of his own, and the Badgers went off to the races. Brust (17 points, 6-of-9 FG, 4-of-7 3-pt.) scored all of his 11 first-half points over the ensuing 5:48, UW finished the half on a 22-5 run, and the No. 2 seed used a monster second half, rolling to a 75-35 victory at the Bradley Center in front of a de facto home crowd.
"Those threes were huge," UW freshman forward Nigel Hayes said of the senior's run. "[American] felt like they were in the upset role and they felt like they were getting things going and then here comes Ben, knocking down his threes. That really kind of took the air out of them and knocked their will back a little bit."
Add the Badgers starting the second half on a 19-3 run, and the total pushes to a 41-8 run for UW in the middle of the game. What looked like it was going to be a competitive game turned into a rout over a 13:45 period in the second half where American did not make a field goal.
The final second-half numbers: Wisconsin racked up 43 points on 15-of-26 shooting (57.7 percent) overall and 7-of-14 (50 percent) from three point range while the Eagles managed just 13 points on 3-of-19 shooting. The Badgers took away any semblance of rhythm American had in their backcut-heavy ‘Princeton' offense.
"They run that 200 or 300 days a year, so they've got it down pretty crisp and [they run it] pretty fast," Brust said. "Once we settled in and figured out what was going on, we did a good job."
Brust spent most of the afternoon guarding junior John Schoof, who scored the Eagles' first eight points. After his three at the 15:48 mark of the first half, though, Schoof went scoreless for nearly thirty minutes. His only other basket came with American trailing by 41 late in the game.
"He caught me sleeping on one and they got one in transition, but then we just kind of settled in and got some good stops," Brust said.
Wisconsin got out to an 8-2 lead, getting scores down low from Frank Kaminsky on each of its first three baskets. Then it endured a 1-for-10 cold spell before the dam broke. Aside from the wide margin at the end, this looked a lot like many offensive performances for the Badgers.
Junior Traevon Jackson (6-of-8 FG, 2-of-4 3-pt.) led all scorers with 18 points and also chipped in four rebounds and three assists to go along with two turnovers. Dekker joined Jackson and Brust in double figures with 11, including five to jump-start the Badgers' dominant second half.
Brust's four threes give him 224 for his career, just three from tying Tim Locum (1988-91) as the program's all-time leader and four from holding the record by himself.
"When I'm out there I'm just trying to do things to help the team be successful and I feel like it'll kind of happen by itself if we're playing good basketball," Brust said. "If we keep winning, it'll happen naturally."
Kaminsky only scored two points after the opening 2:30, but he and Hayes combined to harass American's leading scorer, center and First Team All-Patriot League performer Tony Wroblicky to 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
"We had days to prepare," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "When we play this game Saturday, in no way will we have the same number of hours with our players on the court to teach them things that we can do to help us Saturday."
Ryan, speaking as Brigham Young and Oregon tipped off here, said assistant coach LaMont Parris was watching one team and assistant coach Gary Close had the other.
"They'll have the game in my hands, in my room and I'll have watched it by 7:00 or 8:00 tonight and [I will have] watched some other games of the winning team."