during the West Regional Semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 26, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Dekker’s career night leads Badgers to Elite Eight

Most Badgers fans have been waiting three years for Sam Dekker to be a star, on Thursday night he went all Hollywood in Los Angeles. Dekker scored a career-high 23 points on 10-15 shooting, had 10 rebounds and led the Wisconsin Badgers to a 79-72 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Dekker’s performance was needed in the first half and became bonus in the second half, as he rode the wave of UW’s inconsistent shooting night. He was eventually joined in double figures by senior center Frank Kaminsky (15) and sophomore forward Nigel Hayes (10).

The trio were able to fight off the forward duo of Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson who had 15 points each.

Josh Gasser may not have shown up big on the stat sheet offensively, but he also held UNC’s leading scorer, Marcus Paige, to just nine points on 3 of 9 shooting for the night.

Wisconsin started cold from the field, but a pair of three-point makes in the first four minutes gave Wisconsin a 6-4 lead and what most thought was a lot more confidence from the field. It was only confidence for a select few moments though, as the Badgers shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the first half (10-29).

The Badgers answered back with an 8-0 run to take a brief lead, however the Tar Heels answered back with a 4-0 mini-run of their own to retake the lead at 25-20.

No basket in the first half was bigger than a Dekker tip-in that cut the lead to just two though. Dekker took the Badgers on his back in the first half though, scoring 15 of his 23 points during the period.

It was a good thing too, as Hayes, Kaminsky and Koenig combined for just 10 points on 2 of 19 shooting in the half.

Despite those numbers, the Badgers hung in there and were down just 33-31 at the half. They took advantage of an 8-3 offensive rebound lead and were down just two despite UNC shooting 50 percent from the field in the half.

The second half became a battle of free throws, as Kaminsky and Hayes began to do their work with the ball in their hands.

It didn’t take long for the Badgers to get a lead in the second half, as Bronson Koenig hit a triple early on and made it 38-37. However, North Carolina would go on a run and eventually stretch the lead to 51-44 with 12:13 left to play.

The No. 1 seed out West wasn’t done though, as the Badgers responded right back thanks to an unlikely hero. Sophomore guard Zak Showalter became the focal point of the Badges comeback in this one.

With the Tar Heels up 60-56 with 7:09 to play, Showalter assisted on a Kaminsky three-pointer and then proceeded to go for a layup, a steal and a layup in the next two possessions to give Wisconsin a lead it would never relinquish.

Up 63-60, Dekker hit the exclamation point on the victory with a layup of his own with 5:14 to play.

From then on the Badgers controlled the game and the boards to secure a berth in the elite eight on Saturday. Tip time is to be announced yet, but given it is the West region, expect it to be the late game.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com