March 29, 2014

Wisconsin punches ticket to Final Four with 64-63 victory over Arizona

The Badgers are going to Arlington as the West Regional winner.

If the Wisconsin Badgers needed a clutch 3-pointer, Frank Kaminsky was there. If they needed to pound the ball inside, Kaminsky was there. If they needed just about anything on Saturday night, the 7-footer was there.

Kaminsky did it all in the Badgers’ 64-63 overtime victory over top-seeded Arizona to win the West Regional and secure a spot in next weekend’s Final Four in Arlington.

Wisconsin (30-7) will face the winner of Kentucky-Michigan in the semifinals Saturday at AT&T Stadium. It’s the school’s first Final Four appearance since 2000, when it lost to eventual champion Michigan State in the semifinals, and the first under coach Bo Ryan.

Kaminsky, a junior forward from Lisle, Ill., is a big reason why. The West Regional’s most outstanding player finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, outshining Arizona star freshman Aaron Gordon, who missed his first eight shots from the field and finished with eight points and 18 rebounds.

“I just wanted to do anything I could to make sure we won that basketball game,” Kaminsky said. “I personally wanted it really bad for every person on this team. We all wanted it really bad so I was able to chip in on my part but it was a team effort.”

Said Arizona coach Sean Miller: “Frank Kaminsky is the reason Wisconsin is in the Final Four.”

The Badgers turned to Kaminsky all night, especially in overtime.

With the game tied 54-54 going into overtime, senior guard Ben Brust knocked down a 3-pointer for the first points of the extra session, but then it was all Kaminsky.

He scored six of the Badgers’ final seven points in a back-and-forth battle. Kaminsky made an easy bucket in the paint for a 59-57 lead, but Gordon answered for Arizona with a put-back dunk on a miss by T.J. McConnell.

The Wildcats stayed within reach on a tip-in by Jordan Mayes to make it 64-63 with one minute left.

Each team missed shots on their next possessions and what had been an entertaining game took an unexpected turn on a questionable offensive foul call on Johnson with three seconds left.

But Wisconsin turned the ball over on an errant inbounds pass that gave Arizona a final chance with 2.3 seconds left. Johnson didn’t get a shot off in time, allowing the Badgers to celebrate.

“I wish I would have taken one less dribble, get the shot off, give us a little chance,” Johnson said. “But it was a hard-fought game. I’m just proud in how we fought.”

Wisconsin gained its first lead of the night early on in the second half. Freshman guard Bronson Koenig drained a jumper to put the Badgers up 36-34 with 15:27 left. That capped off an 8-2 run, which included a game-tying 3-pointer by Kaminsky.

“Frank is such a dual threat who can finish from the inside and step out from the outside,” Brust said. “He really helped open up some things for all of us. He’s a beast.”

Arizona battled back after being down two with under five minutes left and tied it at 54-54 with 30.9 seconds left in regulation. Wisconsin had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Traevon Jackson missed a 3-pointer.

In the end, though, all that mattered was what happened in overtime.

“I’m extremely proud, and it’s always about the players,” Ryan said.

But, for Ryan, it meant a little more. Saturday would have been his late father’s, Butch, 90th birthday and the two attended the Final Four together every year.

“I can remember some of the great teams that he had of kids and their first championships and how they acted and just the joy,” Ryan said. “These guys have had some others, but that’s all I wanted to see. Then to see the fans, to see everybody so proud.”

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