Wisconsin headed to Final Four after topping Arizona in overtime thriller
Saturday night's Elite Eight game against Arizona got off to an inauspicious start for Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky. He picked up a foul 31 seconds into the game, then missed a layup about one minute later. Needless to say, he ended up turning his night around.
Kaminsky, a 7-foot junior, scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and he was the only Badger to score more than 10 points in Wisconsin's thrilling 64-63 overtime win against Arizona in the West Regional final.
Facing the toughest test for their offense of the season to date, the second-seeded Badgers struggled to get their offense going in the first half. The top-seeded Wildcats devised a gameplan that chased Wisconsin off the three-point line, largely taking away a weapon that the Badgers have relied on all season. What Arizona couldn't do, however, was stop Kaminsky. Whenever Wisconsin needed a bucket, either inside or out, it went to its center from Lisle, Ill. He finished 11-of-20 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from three-point range, and scored six of the Badgers' last seven points of the game to help secure their first Final Four trip in 13 seasons and the first for head coach Bo Ryan.
Wisconsin didn't take its first lead of the game until the 15:13 mark of the second half when a jumper by Bronson Koenig put the Badgers ahead 36-34. The game was played within an eight-point window the rest of the way, with two lead changes and three ties in the final 10 minutes. Kaminsky's final 3-pointer of the night put Wisconsin in front 50-48 with under five minutes remaining, and though Arizona would tie the game three more times in regulation and twice in overtime, the Wildcats didn't lead again.
Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson missed a jumper at the end of regulation that sent the game to the extra period, where the Badgers' Ben Brust, the school's all-time leader in made three-pointers, opened the scoring with his only triple of the night to put his club up 57-54. Arizona's freshman phenom, Aaron Gordon, tied the score at 57 on a three of his own and again at 59 on a dunk, but Kaminsky gave Wisconsin a lead it would not relinquish with a hook shot at the 2:22 mark. He added a tip in with just over a minute left for a 64-61 lead.
The Wildcats cut their deficit to one and had the ball with under 30 seconds remaining. T.J. McConnell missed a jumper and after an offensive rebound, All-America guard Nick Johnson was called for an offensive foul with 3.2 seconds to play.
The game then ground to a halt, as the referees spent five minutes reviewing an out-of-bounds call that they ultimately overturned. That gave Arizona the ball with 2.3 seconds to go, but Johnson, who finished the night with 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting, failed to get his shot off before the buzzer. Even if he did, it first drew backboard before clanging off the rim and dropping to the floor.
Minutes later the Badgers were cutting down the nets, and Ryan was the final man to climb the ladder and finish the job. He held the net over his head in triumph, as the Wisconsin fans still in attendance chanted his name. The Badgers now head to the Final Four as the only team with wins over the regular season champions in the SEC (Florida), ACC (Virginia), Big Ten (Michigan) and Pac-12 (Arizona). That will make them a serious threat to cut down even more nets in Dallas.