MILWAUKEE – With 0.6 seconds to go, Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser celebrated.
They danced around center court, lifting their arms to the swarm of red and pointing at the fans who hovered near the Bradley Center sidelines.
A technical foul had been called on Oregon’s Jason Calliste, Traevon Jackson was headed to the free-throw line, and Wisconsin’s huge comeback victory — 85-77 — to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 was as good as sealed.
Perhaps we should have an introduction. NCAA tournament, meet the new Badgers.
This version overcomes sometimes rocky defense by simply blowing opponents away with offense. This version gets to the rim, scores in droves and boasts a plethora of options.
This version is hardly the typical Bo Ryan squad, but it can be pretty darn effective.
“People think of us as a defensive-minded bunch,” junior forward Duje Dukan said. “We didn’t want to grind it out, score 40 points.”
They certainly didn’t.
After trailing by 14 near the end of the first half, Wisconsin found a surge after halftime.
And it came in a flurry. First a three-point play from Jackson. Then a pair of shots from Frank Kaminsky. Then a pair of jumpers by Gasser. Capped by two more from Kaminsky.
Within five minutes, that 12-point deficit was down to one. Two minutes later, the Badgers (28-7) were ahead.
They built that lead to 67-61, but the Ducks weren’t done, going up 75-74 on Joseph Young’s three-pointer with 2:50 to go, the last of his 29 points. But second-seeded Wisconsin reclaimed the lead on an epic possession that saw them miss three jumpers only to grab the rebound each time. Brust then connected with 67 seconds left to put the Badgers ahead to stay.
Seventh-seeded Oregon (24-10) shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half, but Wisconsin clamped down enough defensively after halftime, then let its offense do the work. All five starters scored at least 12 points.
“The crowd was unbelievable,” said Kaminsky, who scored 19 points. “We were feeding off the energy of the crowd and trying to get them into it ... that’s obviously a huge advantage for us.”
“Flurry” is not usually a word used to describe Wisconsin’s offense, but this year it seems appropriate.
Last year, with a senior frontcourt of Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren, the Badgers had the No. 9 scoring defense in the nation. But on the offensive end, they left a lot to be desired, ranking as one of the nation’s slowest, tempo-wise.
Such has been the story with many Wisconsin squads in recent years.
Wisconsin had only hit 80 points in a Big Ten or postseason game once in the previous three seasons. This season, the Badgers have done it twice in the past four games.
“With the guys we have this year, I think we’re able to score more,” Dekker said. “That’s just the way it’s been all year. We still have to get better on defense, we’re going to work on that this week, but hopefully our offensive momentum stays.”
Though this season’s Badgers still rank near the bottom of Division I teams in pace of play, they have been a lot more efficient with their possessions. Saturday, they scored a prolific 1.31 points per possession.
They have also found a way to play with teams, such as speedy Oregon, without forcing a slower pace. When Wisconsin needs to play fast, it can.
“It shows that we’re a versatile group,” Dukan said. “We can play fast or we can play slow, kind of adjusting to the speed of the game.”