The second-seeded Wisconsin Badgers are headed to the Final Four after a thrilling overtime victory over the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats out West.
And what a game it was. With so much on the line, both teams took turns delivering haymaker after haymaker.
The Badgers are heading to their first Final Four since 2000, and have one player to thank for that, Junior big man Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky dominated inside, scoring early and often. At the half, the junior had 8 points and 6 rebounds before really taking things to the next gear in the second half and overtime. Kaminsky went on to score 20 points in the second-half and overtime to finish with a game-high 28 points and 11 boards.
“Frank Kaminsky is the reason the Wisconsin Badgers are going to the Final Four.” – Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller
Kaminsky was a one-man wrecking crew for the Badgers. While the rest of his teammates struggled to hit shots, the junior kept the Arizona defense guessing scoring time and time again inside and even adding a few shots from beyond the arc.
“I just wanted to do anything I could to make sure we won that basketball game.” Kaminsky said. “I was able to chip in my part, but tonight was a team effort.”
The game wasn’t without its moments, both big and controversial.
Wisconsin battled to remain close with the Wildcats, but for most of the game could not jump ahead. They finally took the lead on a Bronson Koenig three, which also kicked off an incredible back and forth finish.
With the Badgers up 54-52, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tipped in a Nick Johnson miss to tie the game up. A Traevon Jackson miss at the buzzer later, and the game was headed into overtime.
In the extra five minutes, star freshman Aaron Gordon made his presence felt. After struggling to score all game long, Gordon had 5 of his 8 points to keep Arizona close with Wisconsin while Kaminsky went to work.
Gordon, who will no doubt be followed by draft questions for the foreseeable future, finished with 8 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
“You love having him (Gordon) on your team because he’s the ultimate winner and teammate.” Miller said. “It’s a gift to our program that we have the opportunity to have him.”
The turning point in the game came with 3.2 seconds left when Wildcats guard Johnson was called for a charge with his team down by 1. That controversial call was followed by an even more surprising call that gave the Wildcats the ball back on a Wisconsin in-bounds turnover.
However, Johnson was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded. and the Badgers were headed to the Final Four.
“We’re excited but we know we have another game in front of us.” Kaminsky said, “We want a national championship now, why not go get it?”
For the Wildcats, it was a disappointing end to one of the best seasons in program history. They head into an off-season that will no doubt be clouded in uncertainty with the possibility that Johnson and Gordon specifically may be headed to the draft.
For the Badgers, their season lives on. If Frank Kaminsky has his way, they may be cutting down the nets one more time next weekend.