DRILLED TO PER­FEC­TION

Dis­ci­plined Badgers shoot down Wild­cats’ bid for 40-0

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Chris Dufresne

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — His­tory was not made Satur­day night, it was de­nied.

Wis­con­sin wrecked Ken­tucky’s quest for a per­fect sea­son with a 71-64 victory in the Fi­nal Four at Lu­cas Oil Sta­dium.

It was an oil slick for fans from Lex­ing­ton who wanted to see the Wild­cats achieve col­lege bas­ket­ball’s first 40-0 sea­son. In­stead they wit­nessed their beloved team go from 38 and 0 to 38 and “no!”

Wis­con­sin avenged last year’s na­tional semi­fi­nal loss to Ken­tucky with a victory that will age for as long as good cheeses do in Madi­son.

You knew it was real when Sam Dekker, in front of a mostly dis­be­liev­ing

crowd of 72,238, hugged team­mate Josh Gasser near mid­court when the buzzer sounded.

It was hard to fathom that Wis­con­sin, not Ken­tucky, would be ad­vanc­ing to Mon­day’s cham­pi­onship game.

So you’re say­ing the Badgers now have a chance to win their only other NCAA ti­tle since 1941?

“We have a chance,” Wis­con­sin Coach Bo Ryan joked af­ter the game. “A lit­tle bit bet­ter than Jim Car­rey in ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ ”

Wis­con­sin will play Duke, which beat Michi­gan State, 81-61, in the other semi­fi­nal.

Wis­con­sin fans who pur­chased T-shirts that read “38-1” won’t have to burn them now.

Se­nior for­ward Frank Kamin­sky, who turned 22 on Satur­day and fin­ished with 20 points and 11 re­bounds, said he got the best birth­day present since his dad took him to get his driver’s li­cense at age 16.

Wis­con­sin, in­deed, put Ken­tucky in its rearview mir­ror.

The game hinged on a fi­nal few min­utes tinged with ten­sion and con­tro­versy.

Ken­tucky, af­ter trail­ing by eight points in the sec­ond half, fought back to take a 60-56 lead.

But then, the Wild­cats did some­thing in­ex­pli­ca­ble.

“We’re a fin­ish­ing team,” Coach John Cali­pari said. “That’s the way we play, but we didn’t.”

Wis­con­sin tied it at 60-all with 2:41 left on a put-back bas­ket by Nigel Hayes. A re­play showed that Hayes did not get the shot off be­fore the shot clock ex­pired.

It is a non-re­view­able play, so the game went on.

Dekker, the hero of so many other Wis­con­sin wins, in­clud­ing last week’s West Re­gional fi­nal against Ari­zona, fol­lowed with a three­p­ointer with 1:40 left that gave the Badgers the lead for good.

“It felt good out of my hand,” Dekker said. “I was wait­ing for a good look like that all night.”

Not that things didn’t get sticky. Ken­tucky, which has ral­lied back from deficits all sea­son, trimmed the lead to one when Aaron Har­ri­son made a bas­ket and free throw with 56 sec­onds left.

This was the same Har­ri­son who knocked Wis­con­sin out last year with a three­p­oint shot with 5.7 sec­onds re­main­ing.

Ken­tucky couldn’t come back this time. Kamin­sky was fouled and made two free throws to push the lead back to 66-63.

Ken­tucky’s Karl-An­thony Towns drew a foul but could make only one of two at­tempts.

That al­lowed Wis­con­sin’s Bron­son Koenig a chance, with 12 sec­onds left, to give the Badgers a lit­tle breath­ing room with two made free throws.

Wis­con­sin could sense victory when Har­ri­son launched an air­ball with eight sec­onds left.

This wasn’t last year, or last year’s shot. Kamin­sky re­turned to the re­match as na­tional player of the year.

“That loss last year was mo­ti­va­tion for us in the off sea­son to get bet­ter,” Kamin­sky said.

Wis­con­sin marches on with a 36-3 record that will shine through Sun­day’s sun­rise.

Ken­tucky’s sea­son is sud­denly and shock­ingly over.

The most as­ton­ish­ing stat, other than the fi­nal score, was Wis­con­sin out­re­bound­ing Ken­tucky, 34-22.

“That doesn’t hap­pen,” Cali­pari said.

Dekker, ha­rassed all night by taller de­fend­ers, fin­ished with 16 points. Hayes and Koenig each had 12.

Towns led Ken­tucky with 16 points, and An­drew Har­ri­son, Aaron’s brother, had 13.

Wis­con­sin had eight- and seven-point leads in the sec­ond half, but Ken­tucky an­swered each time.

“When we were down by eight, the game prob­a­bly should have been over,” Cali­pari said.

One thing that could be said about Ken­tucky dur­ing the win­ning streak was it did not panic. It won two games in over­time this sea­son and sur­vived sev­eral other close calls.

The Wild­cats trailed Notre Dame for 22 min­utes 51 sec­onds in last week’s Mid­west Re­gional fi­nal in Cleve­land. That was the most min­utes Ken­tucky has trailed in a game this sea­son.

Ken­tucky fin­ished fast in that game, though, mak­ing its last nine shots to pull out a two-point win.

Satur­day night, Wis­con­sin watched Ken­tucky erase a nine-point first-half deficit, even though the Badgers were beat­ing the Wild­cats up and down the court, and also on the back­boards.

Ken­tucky al­ways seems to re­spond af­ter Cali­pari screams at his play­ers and stamps his foot a few times — but not this time.

When Ken­tucky led, 6056, on a Towns turn-around shot with 6:30 left, you fig­ured the Wild­cats were on their way to Mon­day.

Af­ter a great sea­son, how­ever, they had the script turned on them. The team that al­ways closes strong got closed down.

“If you don’t make plays in the last five min­utes,” Ken­tucky ju­nior for­ward Wil­lie Cauley-Stein said, “you will lose.”

Hard as it may be to be­lieve, Ken­tucky did.

David J. Phillip As­so­ci­ated Press

WIS­CON­SIN All-Amer­i­can Frank Kamin­sky blocks a shot by Ken­tucky’s Wil­lie Cauley-Stein in sec­ond half. Kamin­sky fin­ished with 20 points and 11 re­bounds for the 36-3 Badgers; the Wild­cats fin­ished 38-1.

David J. Phillip As­so­ci­ated Press

SAM DEKKER , whose late three-pointer would put Wis­con­sin ahead to stay, shoots over Wil­lie CauleyStein (15), Aaron Har­ri­son, Karl-An­thony Towns (12).

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