American routed 75-35 by Wisconsin in NCAA opener
MILWAUKEE (AP) — For about 10 minutes Thursday, underdog American followed the upset script to perfection.
A small school flustered a high seed with a rarely-seen offense, and played tough defense to contain the more athletic opponent before an unfriendly crowd.
Things fell apart in a hurry.
Ben Brust scored 17 points and second-seeded Wisconsin stormed past No. 15 seed American with a 22-5 run to close the first half in a 75-35 victory in Milwaukee, barely 90 minutes from the Badgers’ home in Madison.
“No, it was mostly their team,” coach Mike Brennan said quickly to laughs when asked if the fans played a role in the loss. “Obviously it affected little swings here and there. ... We couldn’t score. They stopped us stone cold.”
Until about the 10-minute mark of the first half, it was American in control with a surprising 17-10 lead.
The Badgers (27-7) answered in devastating fashion. The momentum started slowly before Wisconsin shut down the Princeton-style offense and steamrolled American (20-13) the rest of the way. The Eagles were held to 4-of-26 shooting over the game’s final 29 minutes.
“They don’t give up any easy shots at all. So you really have to work for anything that you get,” Brennan said. “A team like that can just completely shut out a team.”
One field-goal drought lasted nearly 14 minutes in the second half.
“That’s pretty crazy,” guard Josh Gasser said. “That must mean you did something well.”
John Schoof and Tony Wroblicky each had 11 points for the Eagles, which must settle for the satisfaction of their Patriot League tourney title and an NCAA bid in Brennan’s first season.
Tough defense and the Princeton offense were trademarks in their otherwise successful season. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was so impressed after watching film with how American ran the scheme that he said he had nightmares of getting beat repeatedly on backdoor cuts.
“Every time I kept watching, I kept looking at things they were doing that I was extremely impressed with,” Ryan said.
After Wisconsin was ousted in the first round last year as a fifth seed, Brust made sure his senior season didn’t end the same way. He attacked the glass for buckets on back-to-back possessions, ending with a 3-point play with 3:33 left in the first half to give Wisconsin a 23-20 lead.
The rout was on. The Badgers hit 57 percent of their shots in the second half on the way to their largest margin of victory in the school’s 44 NCAA postseason games.
Schoof hit two early 3s and Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Wroblicky proved to be handful on the offensive end to help the Eagles build its early lead.
But this year, offense isn’t as much of a problem for the Badgers, even with leading scorer Frank Kaminsky on the bench with foul trouble at the end of the first half.
Anyone on the floor can score. On Thursday, it was Brust’s turn to provide the spark.
After he hit two 3s during the run, Brust drove the lane and pumped his fist after getting a bucket and drawing a foul.
Traevon Jackson later added a 3. Gasser posted up and got fouled, walking away with an angry look before returning to the line to hit two foul shots.
By then it was 28-22 Wisconsin with 1:20 left, and Jackson raised his arms to implore the crowd to get loud.
It was basically over by then. American opened the second half shooting 1 of 11, and Ryan started going to his backups with 5 minutes left and the Badgers up 38.
Jackson finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Sam Dekker finished with 11.
The methodical offense that American well early on crumbled against tighter Wisconsin defense. The frustration was evident when Wroblicky, trying to post up, slipped on the floor while scrambling for a loose ball and slammed a fist on the floor.
“This is new for all of them, playing a team of this caliber,” Brennan said. “It’s a good learning experience ... but I’m proud of what they were able to accomplish this year.”
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP