Rapid Reaction: Wisconsin 73, Montana 49
March, 15, 2012
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Reaction from No. 4-seeded Wisconsin's 73-49 win over No. 13 Montana.
Overview: The last time the Badgers played at The Pit, in 2000, they went to the Final Four.
But that was a regional final.
This is just a second- and third-round event. But the Badgers had the look of an efficient team that will be a tough out going forward. Wisconsin made 3s, forced Montana into taking bad shots and ran its offense to perfection with limited unforced turnovers.
The Grizzlies had their March moment by winning the Big Sky tournament in Missoula. It was a program-changing event for head coach Wayne Tinkle. The Grizzlies had been an elite Big Sky team but hadn’t won the event on their home court since the '90s.
Still, they ran into a Wisconsin team that is ascending in March, not descending. Regardless of who the Badgers play next, the nets at The Pit were friendly.
Turning point: Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz buried a 3-pointer that stretched the Badgers' lead to 53-38. Montana had mounted a mini-comeback and appeared to be on the verge of getting The Pit crowd into the game. But Bruesewitz helped snuff out the Grizzlies.
Key player: Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor ran a steady game for the Badgers. He scored when he needed to give the Badgers a run. He was efficient in dishing out assists and didn’t turn the ball over. The Badgers were run like a machine that knew what it wanted to do on every possession.
Key stat: The Badgers don’t have the low-post presence that previous Wisconsin teams have had under Bo Ryan. So for Wisconsin to advance in this tournament, they have to make 3s. Well, the Badgers did so in waves, making nine 3s in the second half that pushed the Badgers to a 16-point lead at one point. The lead eventually grew to 20.
Miscellaneous: Montana had to get off to a good start to have a chance. But the Grizzlies’ defense couldn’t hold the Badgers. Wisconsin scored 39 points in the first half. ... I have to admit, few people could pull off a deep maroon sport coat like Tinkle. ... The Grizzlies had to have a good shooting game from Will Cherry. They didn’t get one. ... Tinkle needs to get a look at some higher-level jobs. He’s that good. ... I’m not sure Bo Ryan would say this is his best team at all. But it’s one of his most improved from midseason to now.
What’s next: Wisconsin will take on the winner of No. 5 Vanderbilt-No. 12 Harvard. The winner of that game will certainly be given a legitimate shot of winning the Sweet 16 game and advancing to the Elite Eight, assuming it’s Wisconsin or Vandy.