This Day in Wisconsin Athletics History: Badgers Final Four Bound

Photo Courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics

Jake Kocorowski

From time to time, will look at specific dates in Wisconsin athletics history and pick out particular games or events that stand out and call out what stands out among them. While we cannot enjoy live sports at the moment with the COVID-19 pandemic, let's look back on what took place on this spring day.

After losing to Michigan State on Feb. 19, 2000, UW sat at 13-12 overall and 5-8 in Big Ten play. Who knew over a month later, that they would clinch a Final Four berth?

On March 25, 2000, UW defeated Purdue 64-60 in the West Region final. Guard Jon Bryant led the way with 18 points, and as noted in UW's record book, he was named West Region MVP. 

Forward Andy Kowske scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds on 6-of-10 shooting, while guard Roy Boone was the third Badger in double figures with 12 points.

UW held Purdue to just 39.6% shooting, a mere 30.4% from three-point range. On the offensive end, the Badgers finished the game making 46.8% of their attempts from the field, 43.8% from deep.

Both Kowske and guard Mike Kelley also claimed All-West regional honors.

During this season's 2000 Final Four reunion, Kowske discussed with reporters a moment before that battle with the Boilermakers that involved some words from head coach Dick Bennett.

"One of the great memories was our pregame speech against Purdue," Kowske said on Feb. 9. We had a theme that year of 'Touch the Dream,' and Coach weaved that theme into the pregame speech, and you could hear a pin drop on the floor. He was emotional, and that sticks out as one of the best memories. Then going out and winning that game and getting to the Final Four, which I think helped validate how successful and how good of a coach Coach Bennett was.”

The program, led by Bennett, compiled a 22-14 record during that 1999-2000 campaign. After a 61-44 loss at home to the Spartans in mid-February, the team dropped to 13-12 overall, just 5-8 in conference contests. UW went on to pull off three consecutive victories to close out the regular season and won two more conference tournament games.

Wisconsin received a No. 8 seed in the West region, then capped off the season by winning four straight games in the NCAA Tournament to reach the Final Four before ultimately falling to eventual national champion Michigan State.

After the Final Four-clinching win against Purdue, however, tens of thousands of fans churned out to celebrate with the Badgers as has been noted in the UW record book and as part of the university's "Camp Randall 100" moments.

According to Kelley, that is the moment that stands out to him from that season.

"We all took a turn at the mic, and I think we all did our best to try to tell all the students that we need to go back to State Street and riot," Kelley said on Feb. 9, 2020. "I'm surprised they let us all have the microphone, but that's what we did.

"We were sort of successful.”

Ed. note: Appreciate UW's Brandon Harrison for sharing the box score from the 2000 West Region final. 

What do you remember from that game? Let know in the comments section below.