Wisconsin’s brand of low-possession, defensive basketball can frustrate teams accustomed to getting up and down the court.
That frustration was evident for Vanderbilt on Saturday in Albuquerque as the usually up-tempo Commodores plodded through a back and forth battle with the Badgers. And while Wisconsin could not pull away in the second half, fatigue was a factor down the stretch as the Badgers came away with three key rebounds in the final minute to preserve a 60-57 win.
Wisconsin struggled to contain Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli in the paint, but timely three-point shooting allowed them to respond to every Commodores run. Senior Jordan Taylor led four Badgers in double-figures with 14 points and hit three of the team’s 10 three-pointers.
Commodores senior Jeffrey Taylor went scoreless in the first half and spent much of the opening 20 minutes on the bench after picking up two fouls. But the team’s second-leading scorer accounted for his team’s first seven points of the second half to keep the Badgers from getting separation.
Foul trouble continued to plague Vanderbilt as point guard Brad Tinsley picked up his fourth foul with more than eight minutes remaining, forcing freshman Kedren Johnson onto the floor. And with Tinsley on the bench, the Badgers pushed their lead from four to nine — which felt far greater in such a low scoring contest.
But the Commodores switched to a 2-3 zone defense that helped trigger a 13-3 Vanderbilt run. Ezeli gave the Commodores their first lead since the opening minutes with a lay-in with 2:21 left.
But Taylor’s three-pointer on the ensuing possession put the Badgers back on top for good.
Ben Brust scored 11 straight points off the bench including three three-pointers and Jared Berggren scored 12 points for Wisconsin and deflected the inbounds pass on Vanderbilt’s final possession. The Badgers move on to their second straight Sweet 16 and fourth in eight seasons. They will face No. 1 seed Syracuse in Boston on Saturday.
Vanderbilt — which had dropped three straight round-of-64 contests before beating Harvard on Thursday — was denied its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2007.
Box score: Wisconsin 60, Vanderbilt 57
More from Washington Post Sports
Feinstein: Boeheim leads Orange despite distractions
March Madness: Interactive bracket & tourney history