The young Kentucky Wildcats were facing off against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second Final Four game of the day. Coming into the game, there were many predictions including: Kentucky's too skilled, Kentucky's too young, the Badgers are not athletic, the Badgers are too experienced. At the beginning of the game, the Badgers experience seemed to be dominating the game.
The Wisconsin Badgers were playing as a team, as they jumped out to a 17-9 lead. Wisconsin was feeding Frank Kaminsky in the post, and Kaminsky was finding wide open teammates on the three point line. The Badgers had hit three, 3 three pointers in the first 7 minutes of the game, while the Wildcats failed to make more than one.
Kentucky did fight right back (Of course they did), as they went on a small 6-0 run to eventually push the deficit to only 2 points. However, after the initial 17-9 run, the Wildcats were never able to gain the lead.
Give the credit to Wisconsin, as they played great team basketball, and displayed great fundamentals. The Wisconsin Badgers handed out 6 assists, only 2 turnovers, and shot 14-14 from the free throw line, during the first half. Wisconsin did not turn the ball over for 18 straight minutes! On the other end, Kentucky was able to use great athleticism to find open looks, and knock them down.
In the first half, Kentucky shot 54% from the floor, grabbed 17 rebounds (compared to Wisconsin's 12), but only had 3 total assists. Kentucky's star, Julius Randle, led the charge with 9 points and 3 rebounds in the first half, but gave us a scare in the first half.
Around the mid way through the first half, Randle came down awkwardly on his ankle, and had to take a three minute break to walk it off. However, after the scare, Randle calmed Kentucky's nerves, and he came back out and scored 7 points for the rest of the first half.
Wisconsin's star, Frank Kaminsky, had a quiet first half, as he put up 2 points and 2 rebounds, but the Badgers did not need him to take over. The Wildcats were double teaming him in the post, and Frank was playing smart and letting his teammates get wide open three pointers. Ben Brust and Bronson Koenig took advantage as they made 4 three pointers in the first half, and scored a combined 21 points in the first half.
Overall, at the end of the first half, the Wisconsin Badger's team play walked into the locker room with a 40-36 lead.
Wisconsin came out of half, and on the first possession, looked like a team ready to take over the game. On the first possession, Wisconsin grabbed an offensive rebound, and hit a three to extend the game to 7 points. Wisconsin looked poised, and confident.
John Calipari called a time out, talked to his team, and all of a sudden, the Wildcats came out on fire. After Calipari's time out, Kentucky went on a 15-0 run, and was dominating every part of the game.
They grabbed 6 offensive rebounds during the stretch (Every point came off of a offensive rebound, or a shot in the paint), shot 5 for 9 from the field, and was playing great defense on Wisconsin (1-6 from the field, 3 turnovers). Kentucky had an eight point lead, and their stars were leading them to a NCAA Championship appearance.
However, Duje Dukan would not go down without a fight. Dukan and the Badgers responded to the Wildcats with a 13-4 run, and tied the game at 12 minutes left in the game. During the run, Dukan made two three's and scored 8 points. They had already tied the game, and from there, the Badgers continued to play great.
The Badgers played great as a team, and made 8 out of 10 field goals on the way to pushing the lead. The Wisconsin Badgers pushed the lead to four points with 8 minutes left in the game, and the Wildcats fans were silent.
The game went back and forth from here, as Wisconsin held the lead, while Kentucky never went away. However, eventually, the Wildcats were able to start a 9-2 run with great defense. The Badgers had 4 straight empty possessions, with turnovers on 2 possessions. Kentucky continued their consistent offense, and gained the lead with 2:15 left in the game. After the run, the Wildcats had the 71-69 lead with 2 minutes left.
Give credit to the Badgers, as they continued to fight. Frank Kaminsky fought for an offensive rebound, and was able to tie the game with 1:18 left in the game (lay up). After Frank, Traevon Jackson was able to make two of three free throws. Jackson used his experience to get Aaron Harrison up in the air, jump into him, and make most of his free throws. Jackson was unable to make
Now, the Badgers had the lead with 16 seconds left. No way the Wildcats would be able to pull off another game winner. Right? Right!?
Of course not.
Aaron Harrison played the role of hero, again, as he made the same three pointer against Michigan, but this time, against Wisconsin. Harrison was actually closer to the out bounds line, than the three point line! Aaron Harrison shook off a rough game, and won the game for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Wisconsin had a chance to win the game with 6 seconds left, but Traevon Jackson's potential game winning pull up jumper fell an inch too long.
Now, the EIGHT SEED WILL BE FACING OFF VERSUS THE SEVEN SEED in the National Championship.