The Badgers struck down the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats with consistent execution and timely rallies.
Kentucky lost their chance at a perfect season at the hands of Wisconsin in the Final Four on Saturday night. Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 34-22 (12-6 offensive) forced three straight shot clock violations and hit free throws down the stretch to take down Kentucky, who finished two wins short of becoming the first undefeated team since the 1975-75 Indiana Hoosiers.
National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky led his team with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Sam Dekker added 16 points for Wisconsin.
The Badgers got off to a 23-14 lead in the first half behind hot shooting from Dekker and a concerted game plan on both ends. Kentucky made their response and brought the game to a 36-36 stalemate at the half. It wasn’t until midway into the second half when Kentucky was able to impose their will. They held Wisconsin without a basket for six minutes and used their sheer will to make a 12-4 run and level the playing field.
With eight minutes left Aaron Harrison made a layup followed by a Karl-Anthony Towns jumper that put Kentucky up 60-56. The Wildcats’ momentum was then negated by a Sam Dekker jump shot, followed by a Nigel Hayes layup, the result of a missed shot clock violation call, to tie the game at 60-apiece.
This became part Wisconsin’s crucial 8-0 run, which was capped by this three-pointer from Sam Dekker, which would give the Badgers the lead for the rest of the game:
Dekker took a charge on Trey Lyles on the ensuing play and made one of two free throws, putting Kentucky down by four with a minute to play. Aaron Harrison scored a driving and-one layup at the :56 mark, which was Kentucky’s first made field goal in six minutes, and made the free throw. 64-63, Wisconsin.
The Badgers took their time on the following possession and found Frank Kaminsky, who made a spinning move that forced a foul on Willie Cauley-Stein. Kaminsky hit both free throws. 66-63, Wisconsin. Kaminsky then fouled Karl-Anthony Towns who made one of two free throws. Bronson Koening, who made seven out of eight free throws in the last 24 seconds, was fouled and knocked down both free throws with 13 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and essentially out of reach for Kentucky.
Final: Wisconsin 71 Kentucky 64
Unfortunately for Kentucky, they still had to face the press about the loss and their future, even if they didn’t want to shake hands after the game. Andrew Harrison’s sound bit has gone viral.
Willie Cauley-Stein asked if this was his last Kentucky game: “Probably. It’s time to take another step.”
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) April 5, 2015
Meanwhile, Wisconsin will face the Duke Blue Devils in the National Championship on Monday night, and had a great sight at their hotel after the game:
Final fun facts:
– Frank Kaminsky celebrated his 22nd birthday on Saturday.
– Sam Dekker came into the NCAA Tournament 35-for-113 on three-point attempts. He’s 15-for-30 from behind the arc in the tournament.