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Thirty-eight and no: Wisconsin moves on to national championship game with stunning win over undefeated Kentucky

first_imgINDIANAPOLIS – The Wisconsin men’s basketball team was able to do something no other team has done all season.No other team this season had beaten the Kentucky Wildcats but Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, in perhaps the biggest game in program history on the game’s biggest stage, Wisconsin found a way to stop the Wildcats pursuit of a perfect 40-0 season dead in its tracks.And by doing so, the Badgers are moving on to the national championship game for the first time in 74 years and just the second time in program history as Wisconsin knocked off Kentucky 71-64 Saturday night.Wisconsin (36-3) will take on the No. 1 seed in the South Region, Duke (34-4), on Monday in the national title game.“I think that loss last year motivated us through the off-season so we could get back here,” Wisconsin senior forward and AP Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky said. “Once the season started, we had our own goals in mind. It’s great we had a chance to play a good team along the way and come out on top.”After a back-and-forth first half, Wisconsin was able to take the lead for the majority of the second half before going on an untimely 6:08 scoring drought in the middle of the half. Kentucky (38-1) came back during that stretch to take a 60-56 lead with 6:36 left in the game. It was Wisconsin’s largest deficit of the half.But Wisconsin then locked down on defense, forcing Kentucky into three straight shot clock violations before Sam Dekker hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave the Badgers the lead back, 63-60, with 1:42 remaining.“Those shot clock violations were big for us,” Wisconsin junior forward Sam Dekker said. “Gave us confidence on the defensive end and maybe hopefully drained a little bit of their confidence on the offensive end.”Dekker turned right around on defense after the three and drew perhaps the biggest charge of the season with 1:25 remaining as Kentucky’s Trey Lyles was called for the offensive foul.“Him being down low, Sam saw the opportunity of him trying to bully his way to the rim. He made a great play for us,” Wisconsin sophomore forward Nigel Hayes said of Dekker’s charge.Wisconsin got the ball back after the Kentucky offensive foul and Dekker converted a free throw on the other end to extend the Badgers’ lead to four at 64-60 with 1:06 left in the game.Aaron Harrison answered for Kentucky with a jumper but Wisconsin closed the game out by going 7-for-8 from the free-throw line over the final minute of play. One last 3-point attempt from Harrison that would have kept Kentucky in the game missed everything with five seconds left and sealed the Badgers’ school record 36th win and a matchup with Duke on Monday in the national title game.Kaminsky led Wisconsin on Saturday scoring a game-high 20 points (7-for-11) with 11 rebounds while Dekker added 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting.Michael Reaves/Kentucky KernelKnown for being one of the best rebounding teams in the country, Kentucky was outrebounded by Wisconsin 34-22 including a 12-6 advantage on the offensive glass. The Badgers turned those 12 offensive rebounds into 13 second change points.“We just tried to do whatever we could to stay into them,” Kaminsky said. “We know if they get another offensive rebound, they get another chance to score. They’re such a good offensive team, if they get buckets that way, it’s going to be a long night.”Karl-Anthony Towns paced Kentucky with 16 points and nine rebounds while Andrew Harrison (13) and Aaron Harrison (12) rounded out the Wildcats in double figures on Saturday night. All-American Willie Cauley-Stein scored only two points on 1 of 4 shooting for Kentucky.After shooting 60 percent (15-for-25) in the first half, Kentucky shot only 37.9 percent (11-for-29) in the second half. Wisconsin shot 47.9 percent (23-for-48) for the game and went 7-for-17 (41.2 percent) from beyond the arc.But like they’ve grown accustom to, the Badgers never wavered when they saw their lead switch into Kentucky’s favor. It’s arguably the most important reason why Wisconsin will be playing for its second championship in program history on Monday.“We know the type of team we have,” Dekker said. “We know the type of coaching staff we have. We know that whatever is going on in the game, we’re not going to change.“Whether we’re down six or up 20, we’re going to be us and we’re going to play our game.Michael Reaves/Kentucky KernelAnd with just a day separating Saturday’s win and Monday’s game, the celebration time will be short as Wisconsin will prepare to defeat a Duke team who it previously lost to this season in an 80-70 defeat at the Kohl Center in December.“It’s not over. We have nothing to celebrate,” Wisconsin fifth-year senior Josh Gasser said. “We obviously won a great game, it’s a huge accomplishment making it to the national championship game, but it wasn’t our goal to make it to the national championship. So we celebrated for a good five, six seconds and then we have to move on.”last_img

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