MILWAUKEE — It lasted 47 seconds and included three missed shots, two of which were contested. In the midst of it, Bo Ryan used a timeout to address spacing and allow his players to take a deep breath and regroup.
While there have been much uglier offensive possessions among the roughly 2,200 the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has accumulated this season, this one was far from smooth.
So how did the bottom line of the possession — a 3-pointer by senior guard Ben Brust with 67 seconds remaining that gave the Badgers the lead for good in their 85-77 victory over Oregon on Saturday night in an NCAA tournament game at the Bradley Center — end up being so beautiful for Ryan’s team?
Grit, pure and simple.
“I couldn’t keep track on the sideline who was getting all the offensive rebounds,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “Everybody was flying around, bodies were flying and we kept coming out with the ball. Obviously, it shows the will of this team.”
UW finished with 14 offensive rebounds in a victory that clinched a spot in the Sweet 16. The second-seeded Badgers (28-7) will meet sixth-seeded Baylor (26-11) in a West regional semifinal at 6:47 p.m. Thursday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Three of UW’s offensive rebounds against the Ducks came on the possession that ended with Brust making the 228th 3-pointer of his career, moving him past Tim Locum as the Badgers’ all-time leader in that category.
Oregon won the battle of 50/50 balls in the first half, but UW owned that category in the second half and it was particularly noticeable during that critical possession late in the game.
After junior guard Josh Gasser missed a 3-pointer from the left corner, Oregon’s Mike Moser and Elgin Cook both went for the ball and it got deflected to UW sophomore forward Sam Dekker in the lane.
Badgers junior guard Traevon Jackson followed by misfiring from 3-point range, but junior center Frank Kaminsky got a piece of the ball and freshman guard Bronson Koenig outworked Oregon’s Johnathan Loyd on the baseline to corral the loose ball.
After Ryan’s timeout, Kaminsky drove to the rim and missed an awkward shot, but he got a hand on the ball to keep it alive and Dekker chased it down. He passed to Jackson, who found Brust open on the right wing.
Remember Dekker’s comments midway through the season, after a home loss to Northwestern, about the Badgers being “soft” and “unaggressive” and “the team that’s lacking in all the categories that you need to win?”
None of those labels applied to UW in the second half Saturday, when it was tough and aggressive and a team willing to do anything possible to advance.
“Whenever you can fight for possessions and keep it going, hopefully good things are going to come,” Dekker said. “Coach is all about the little things, and if you do the little things right, things are going to come back to you. Offensive (rebounding) is one of those little things that you have to do.”
Up next for UW is Baylor, which rolled to an 85-55 victory over third-seeded Creighton on Sunday night in San Antonio.
The Bears shot 63.8 percent overall and 61.1 percent from 3-point range against the Bluejays. Their zone defense held Creighton, which has the most efficient offense in the country, to 24.4 points below its season average.
Baylor, which is located in Waco, Texas, tied for sixth place in the 10-team Big 12 Conference during the regular season. But the Bears, who are coached by Scott Drew, have won 12 of their past 14 games since a 1-7 stretch midway through the season.
Senior Corey Jefferson, a 6-foot-9 forward, leads Baylor with 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Brady Heslip is shooting 46.8 percent from 3-point range — he went 5 of 7 vs. Creighton — and is averaging 11.9 points per game.
Junior guard Kenny Chery (11.5) and sophomore center Isaiah Austin (11.2) also average in double figures in scoring for the Bears. The 7-1 Austin is among the nation’s leaders in blocked shots with 3.2 per game.
Baylor is long, athletic and peaking at the right time of the year. To beat the Bears and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005, the Badgers likely will have to display the same fortitude they showed in the second half against Oregon.
At halftime, with his team trailing by 12 points, Ryan had one final question for the Badgers in the locker room before they returned to the court.
How were they going to feel on the bus ride back to Madison after the game?
The answer: Filled with joy, because the Badgers went down fighting and showed their resolve, especially during that key possession late in the game.
“I knew they were a pretty determined group,” Gard said, “that didn’t want to take off the uniforms and pack them away after tonight.”