March 20, 2014
BY MIKE LUCAS
MILWAUKEE -- Maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising that Wisconsin got off to a slow start Thursday against overmatched American University at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Badgers also had to rally from deficits the last time they opened the NCAA tournament in Milwaukee and the last time they entered as a No. 2 seed.
In 2004, they trailed by 13 points to Richmond in the second half before they scored on 19 straight possessions during an overwhelming 36-8 run fueled by a partisan crowd.
In 2007, the No. 2 seeded-Badgers had the equivalent of the home court advantage against Texas A&M Corpus Christi at Chicago’s United Center.
After trailing 27-19 at halftime, Wisconsin unloaded a 57-point haymaker on the undermanned No. 15 seed, with 48 of those points coming in the final 14 minutes.
History is a great teacher. Despite some early anxiety after American took a 17-10 lead, it was just a matter of time before the superior Badgers would establish dominance.
They did so with a 22-5 run to close the first half; a run that was triggered by Ben Brust, who scored 11 of Wisconsin’s 13 points during the early stages of its rally.
After going nearly seven minutes without a basket, the Badgers got back in synch with the help of their noisy supporters who filled most of the seats.
While American was still technically within “striking distance” at halftime -- down by only 10 -- the Badgers promptly ended whatever suspense that may have remained on their way to a 75-35 win.
The overall run was 50-9.
To his credit, UW coach Bo Ryan was most gracious in his postgame remarks. He started by complimenting American’s Mike Brennan for getting his team to the tournament.
Ryan praised Brennan for getting the most out of his players, not unlike what Ryan has been able to do at each of his coaching stops.
During Wednesday’s pregame press conference, Brennan was candid enough to admit that his team would have to play near perfect game to even be in the game.
They weren’t anywhere near perfect.
And they were in the game for only a short time.
Brennan was also honest when asked if he thought his team could be this season’s Florida Gulf Coast, a No. 15 seed that knocked off No. 2 Georgetown in the 2013 tournament.
He didn’t hesitate to say, “No.”
This was not Lehigh over Duke or Norfolk State over Missouri in 2012.
Nor was this Hampton over Iowa State in 2001, nor Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997, nor Santa Clara over Arizona in 1993, nor Richmond over Syracuse in 1991.
This was a well-coached, offensively balanced Wisconsin team taking care of business at both ends of the floor and doing what a No. 2 seed is supposed to do against a No. 15.