The second game of the Elite Eight, Wisconsin vs Arizona, was hyped up to be a great defensive game. Arizona has the 5th best opponents points per game and is extremeley tough on defense. Wisconsin is no where near Arizona but they are no slouch to defense either - 38th best opponents points per game in the NCAA.
Last night, the two defensive teams collided on the west coast. Neither team could score through the first 2 to 3 minutes of the game, and the defense only escalated from there. Arizona was able to hold Wisconsin to only 5 points through 7 minutes of the game, and the Wildcats offense had a few sparks.
Arizona scored 12 points through the first 7 minutes and jumped out to an early 12-5 lead. With control of the game, on offense and defense, it seemed that Arizona would pull away quickly. However, Arizona blew their chances to put Wisconsin away early.
Arizona had an eight point lead, four different times during the first half. Each time, Wisconsin would come back, score 2 or 3 quick buckets, and the game would be back to a close game. The refs were also helping Arizona, as the refs were awful and giving the Wildcats every call! However, Arizona just could not reach a double digit lead!
The best example is after Bo Ryan's technical foul. Around 12 minutes into the first half, Wisconsin's coach, Bo Ryan, was arguing with an official and was called for a technical foul. Arizona made the two free throws, had an 8 point lead, and had the ball! Instead of putting the game away, Arizona missed 4 field goal attempts in a row!
Arizona has the biggest blame for not putting the game away, but give Wisconsin credit too. Wisconsin out rebounded Arizona by 8 rebounds, and did not let the Wildcats run.
At halftime, Arizona had given up another eight point lead after not scoring for the last 3 minutes of the first half. Wisconsin came back, again, made some tough shots, and the score was 28-25 at halftime.
The failure to produce a double digit lead really hurt Arizona in the early second half. Arizona's best offensive play maker, TJ McConnell, sat out with foul trouble, and Arizona had trouble scoring.
Arizona was only able to score 8 points in 7 minutes, while Wisconsin shot near 50% the beginning of the first half. Wisconsin took the lead with about 17 minutes left in the second half, and even built a 5 point lead. Frank Kaminsky led the way, as he scored 17 points through 30 minutes (28 total). One could feel the energy in the building from Wisconsin's play.
I thought Wisconsin was going to be able to build a bigger lead from there, but Arizona fought right back. Arizona put TJ back in the game, after being down 5, and Arizona tied the game right away. McConnell came back and hit a three to cut the lead to 2, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a tip to tie the game. Nick Johnson, 2 minutes later, hit a three to get the lead back for the Wildcats.
All of a sudden, Arizona held all the momentum in the building! Wisconsin had faces of despair, Wisconsin was frustrated, and Bo Ryan had a blood shot face.
The momentum remained the same until the 4 minute mark of the second half. Frank Kaminsky, who was Wisconsin's biggest performance today, hit a three to put Wisconsin up by 2. Before his three, Arizona held onto the lead, but Wisconsin persevered and stuck with the Wildcats.
Now, it was Arizona's turn to persevere as they had to stay with the Badgers the rest of the game. The Wildcats were able to tie the game with twice, but each time, the Badgers came right back and scored. Finally, Arizona was able to tie the game with 30 seconds left and force overtime. The Badgers tried to hit a game winner, but Traevon Jackson fell short on his step back jumper.
In overtime, the game kept going back and forth. Neither team scored on their first possession, Wisconsin got the first points of OT with a three (From Ben Brust), Arizona came right back as Aaron Gordon hit at three, Frank Kaminsky made a tough lay up, and Aaron Gordon threw down a dunk.
Through the first 3 minutes of OT, both teams were matching each other. However, with 2 minutes left in OT, Frank Kaminsky made another hero like shot, as he made a tough, contested jump hook. Arizona tried to match the Badgers, but Nick Johnson missed his jumper.
Josh Gasser grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled while fighting for the ball. He went to the free throw line, but only made 1 of 2 to push the lead to 62-59. Arizona was able to reach the free throw line, and Kaleb Tarczewski made both.
However, AGAIN, Frank Kaminsky played the role of the hero as he made the put back lay up (Go back and look at the replay. Arizona actually tips the ball into the basket, but Frank is credited with the basket). Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Jordin Mayes grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball right back into the basket. Wisconsin still had the lead, but another chance to put the game away faded away.
Wisconsin was not able to score on their possession and Arizona had the ball, with under 30 seconds, to win the game. TJ McConnell drove down the lane, attacked the basket, but was a little too aggressive.
The officials called a push off on TJ, and the Badgers had the ball with 4 seconds left. The Badgers were able to finish the game (Not without controversy, but with relative ease), and advance to the Final Four.
Arizona Wildcats only have them to blame, as they had many chances to put the game out of reach, had the lead with under 3 minutes, and could not make the big plays. Give credit to Wisconsin, as they continuously made the big plays and took the charge to win the game. However, I'll remember this game from Arizona not being able to put away chances and Frank Kaminsky playing the role of hero (28 points, 11 rebounds).
Congratulations to Wisconsin and Bo Ryan (First trip to Final Four), sorry Arizona.