OMAHA, Neb. - Athletically on paper, the Badgers simply did not match up with the quick, agile freshmen of Kansas State.
Odds are that those odds makers did not factor in 6-foot-11, 260 pound Greg Stiemsma, who nearly out performed everybody Saturday afternoon.
Averaging only three points a game during the course of the season, Stiemsma exploded for a career high 14 points, helping the Badgers make their first sweet 16 appearance since 2005 with a 72-55 victory over Kansas State.
Stiemsma was effective in all facets of his game against the Wildcats (21-12). He shot 6-for-9 from the floor, was active on the boards and even showcased some athleticism in the process.
Midway through the first half with the shot clock winding down, Stiemsma stutter stepped out toward the perimeter as sophomore Trevon Hughes drove into the lane. When his defender closed on the sophomore, Stiemsma received the pass and slammed it home.
In the second half with the Badgers looking to build on their nine-point lead, Stiemsma got the ball on an outlet pass, drove into the lane and delivered on a off-balance layup as he was fouled, converting on the old fashioned three-point play.
Stiemsma wasn’t the only offensive gem, as Hughes was an assassin all afternoon long for the Badgers (31-4). Hughes nailed four triples and registered a game-high 25 points on 8-for-13 shooting and senior Michael Flowers scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half, helping the Badgers build a lead they were never relinquish.
Loss in the game was the defensive effort of junior Joe Krabbenhoft on freshman Michael Beasley. Scoring 17 points in the first 20 minutes, Beasley attempt just five shots in the second half, scoring only four points from the floor with Krabbenhoft, a member of the conference’s all defensive team, as his shadow in the second half.
Beasley finished with 23 points and fellow freshman Bill Walker finished with 18 points, fouling out with 2:49 left on the clock.
While the Badgers dominated the offensive glass against the shorter Titans in the first round, Wisconsin started the second round game lackadaisical against the taller, more talented Wildcats, letting Kansas State secure four offensive rebounds in first four minutes.
But if the Badgers were out of it, that feeling did not last for long.
Trailing 10-8 and watching Beasley score six of the 10, Wisconsin got a two-point jumper from Hughes, a three-pointer from Bohannon and the key to the equation was five straight points from Stiemsma.
With Wisconsin up six at 20-14, the Badgers did not stop on the attacking from the perimeter, as Wisconsin scored its next 12 shots from the perimeter. Hughes nailed a three-pointer from the elbow. Brian Butch nailed an uncontested three from near the top of the key and Flowers knocked down two three-pointers in three possessions.
Of the Badgers’ 39 first half points, 21 came from beyond the arc, as Wisconsin shot 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) from three-point range and shot 52 percent as a team to build a six point halftime lead.
Wisconsin continued to push the offensive tempo in the second half, scoring the first seven points of the second half, held Kansas State scoreless the first four minutes and 16 seconds and never let the Wildcats gets closer than nine.
Although the Badgers were strong defensively on Beasley in the second half, Wisconsin silenced the guard play of the Wildcats, something State has relied upon all season to help the offense click.
Out scoring Kansas State guards 45-8, the Badgers held the Wildcats to 0-for-13 from three-point range, the first time in 349 games Kansas State failed to connect on a three-point bucket.
Other than Beasley and Walker, Wisconsin held the rest of the Wildcats, whose point total was a season low, to only 14 points on 6-for-23 shooting (26 percent).
Wisconsin will face the winner of tomorrow’s game between No.2 Georgetown and No.10 Davidson on Friday in Detroit.