By Ryan Miller
Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team defeated the University of Arizona Wildcats in overtime to make their way into the Final Four. The West Region final game was expected to be close as the Wildcats were the one seed and the Badgers were the two seed, and a close game it was with a final score of 64-63.
Wisc. got off to a slow start in the first half. They were missing short jump shots and layups. The Wildcats took advantage of Badger mistakes and got off to an early lead.
Hustle plays and defense kept the Badgers in the game until their offense came alive. They slowly cut down the Wildcats lead and by the end of the first half were only down three points with a score of 28-25.
In the second half Badger’s seven foot forward Frank Kaminsky took control of the game. Kaminsky is a triple threat player; he can shoot from the perimeter, play the post, and score off the dribble. The Wildcats did not have an answer to defend Kaminsky and he went on to score 28 points and have 11 rebounds.
The rest of the Badger’s offense was not consistent throughout the game. Point guard Traevon Jackson scored ten points, and was the only other Badger to join Kaminsky in scoring double figures.
Ben Brust, normally an offensive threat for Wisc., scored only five points. He is a three point specialist, but only attempted three shots from beyond the arc. The Wildcats defense did not give Brust any easy looks and guarded him tight throughout the entire game.
In the last ten minutes of the second half, neither team had an significant lead. Each possession determined who would be in the lead and control the game. With a minute left in the game Jackson made a layup and put the Badgers up 54-52.
However, with 32 seconds left in the game, Wildcats’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had a timely dunk to tie the game. With 30 seconds left, the shot clock was off and the Badgers were in control of the last possession of the game. Jackson let the clock wind down to ten seconds before making a move. He penetrated the defense and made space, but his jump shot was short hitting off the front of the rim.
Kaminsky was the deciding factor for the Badgers in overtime. He made six of the ten Badger points scored during overtime play. Similar to the last minutes of the second half, overtime was a nail biter.
With only 29 seconds left in overtime play the Badgers were up 64-63. Jackson had an opportunity to make it a three point lead, but missed his layup allowing the Wildcats to take control of the game.
The Wildcats missed their first attempt to take the lead from the Badgers, but got an offensive rebound. The ball was put in the hands of Wildcats’ Nick Johnson, Pac-12 player of the year, with seconds left in the game. Before getting a shot off Johnson committed an offensive foul on his drive to the basket, turning the ball over to the Badgers.
3.2 seconds left in the game and Badgers have possession with a one point lead and two timeouts remaining. The official handed Badgers’ guard Josh Gasser the ball for what appeared to be an inbound play to clinch the Badgers’ spot in the Final Four. However, the pass was tipped by a Wildcats defender and the play was under review.
The officials reviewed the play for five minutes to determine who last touched the ball. The original ruling of Badgers’ ball was overturned, as the officials claimed that Jackson last touched the ball before it went out of bounds.
The Wildcats had 2.3 seconds to inbound the ball and get a shot off. The ball went to Nick Johnson, who took one too many dribbles and could not get a shot off before the buzzer went off.
Coach Bo Ryan of the Badgers enters the Final Four for the first time in his successful coaching career with the 64-63 victory over University Arizona. He has been the Badgers’ head coach for 12 years and has a winning percentage over .720.
Before this season Ryan has coached the Badgers to five Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight appearance. This year’s team is arguably the Badgers’ best team under the direction of Coach Ryan and rightfully so, making it to the Final Four for the first time.
If the Badgers keep playing their game a National title is not an imaginable feat, but an expected accomplishment. In post-game analysis, sports broadcaster and former NBA player Charles Barkley even said he would take the Badgers winning plus ten over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tune in on April 5 to watch the Badgers play in the semifinals of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
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