INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — 11:15 P.M.
Sam Dekker gave Wisconsin a four-point lead with 1:06 left, then Bronson Koenig put their semifinal away at the free throw line as the Badgers ended Kentucky’s unbeaten season.
Final score: 71-64.
Now, the Badgers will play Duke for the national championship Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats finished 38-1. Another season will end without an undefeated national champion in Division I. Indiana is still the last to accomplish the feat in 1975.
The Badgers have not won a national title since 1941.
As the Badgers closed it out Saturday night, their student section chanted, “38-1!”
Kentucky started playing as if it had a 10-point lead when it did not.
The Wildcats were slowing it down, milking the clock and trying to get inside to their big guys, just the way they did late in their win against Notre Dame last week. But the ‘Cats started being a little too deliberate and drew a couple of shot clock violations in the process.
Three straight empty possessions came back to bite Kentucky. Nigel Hayes tied the game with a layup and Sam Dekker gave the Badgers a 63-60 lead with 1:20 to play.
Now, the Badgers lead 66-63 with 24.5 seconds left and Kentucky with the ball.
A potential turning point: With Kentucky and Wisconsin tied at 56, Bronson Koenig hit a 3-pointer for the Badgers, but an offensive foul away from the ball on Josh Gasser wiped it out.
Aaron Harrison came back with a layup that gave Kentucky a 58-56 lead, and suddenly the Wildcats’ inside game and depth seemed to be wearing down the Badgers.
Willie Cauley-Stein’s short turnaround jumper made it 60-56 with 6:00 minutes left, and the lead is still 60-58 with the Wildcats working the clock and 3:16 to play.
Now, it’s “Go big blue!” that is ringing throughout the arena, where 72,238 people packed in to set a new Lucas Oil Stadium record.
Wisconsin fans sure like to sing.
With the Badgers leading 54-51 at the second media timeout Saturday night, their student section broke into “Build Me Up Buttercup,” that late-1960s hit by The Foundations.
The Badgers are hitting 51 percent of their shots against one of the best defenses college basketball has seen. Kentucky is making 55 percent of its shots.
A spinning baseline drive by Sam Dekker resulted in a bucket and foul, and the Wisconsin forward completed the three-point play to put the Badgers up 49-44 when the teams returned to play after the first media timeout of the second half.
That had Wisconsin fans in the student-section happier than when they got to take a few selfies with Charles Barkley during intermission.
Then, Bronson Koenig nailed a 3-pointer and Kentucky John Calipari used a timeout to stem a 16-8 start to the second half by the Badgers.
Wisconsin’s best players were delivering. AP player of the year Frank Kaminsky has 16 points and has missed only two shots, and Dekker has scored 10.
Wisconsin leads 52-44 and “Let’s Go Badgers!” is ringing through Lucas Oil Stadium.
The second half is underway and Kentucky looks as if it will have to win another close game to complete its perfect season.
Wisconsin is sticking with the Wildcats the way Notre Dame did in the regional.
The teams picked up where they left off at the end of the half, trading baskets. Kentucky has to extend to the perimeter with its big guys on defense more than it would like, but so far the Badgers have been unable to take advantage of it by driving to the rim.
This is getting good. Really good.
Kentucky wiped out a nine-lead and tied Wisconsin at 32 on baseline floater by Aaron Harrison that drew a foul. Harrison turned it into a three-point play.
That came right after dunk by Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.
Kentucky went ahead for the first time since the opening minutes when it forced a turnover that led to Trey Lyles’s break-away slam dunk, setting Big Blue Nation into frenzy.
Wisconsin wasn’t done. As the clock ticked down on the first half, Bronson Koenig swished a jumper to tie the game at 36. The shot was reviewed to see whether it was a 3, but it was not.
The rematch of last year’s Kentucky-Wisconsin matchup in the Final Four was certainly living up to the hype. Kaminsky had nine points and five rebounds to lead Wisconsin, while Harrison and his twin brother, Andrew, had combined for 18 points.
Frank the Tank and Wisconsin are crushing Kentucky on the glass.
Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers did not allow the unbeaten Wildcats an offensive rebound for the first 16 minutes of the first half of Saturday night’s national semifinal.
The offensive rebound is key to Kentucky, with the biggest lineup in the country, featuring three players 6-foot-11 or taller and guards the size of some teams’ forwards.
But Kaminsky had five rebounds and the Badgers were doubling up the Wildcats, 12-6, until Kentucky got its first offensive board and converted it into a basket.
Wisconsin led 30-27 with 3:43 left before halftime.
Frank Kaminsky, the AP player of the year, let go a straight-on 3, held the follow-through, and watched it swish to give Wisconsin a 21-14 lead with 10:33 left in the first half.
The Wisconsin crowd exploded and Kentucky coach John Calipari quickly called a timeout.
Coach Cal sat on a stool and calmly lectured his players. He hasn’t been happy with the play of his big guys, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. He yelled to his bench after one of his big guys missed, “He faded away!”
Kentucky has been hit with first-half runs before. The Wildcats aren’t likely to get flustered by an early deficit.
Kentucky coach John Calipari isn’t exactly going with wholesale line changes like he played with early in the season, but he still is going deep into his bench.
Nine different Wildcats had seen the floor by the first media timeout.
That could prove pivotal in the second half. Wisconsin doesn’t go nearly as deep, sticking primarily with seven or eight players. That means the bigger, more physical Wildcats could look to wear down the Badgers, who are plenty used to rough play in the Big Ten.
Both teams started off hot from the field, just like Duke and Michigan State did in the first semifinal. In that one, only the Blue Devils kept it going.
As expected, the opening minutes of Kentucky-Wisconsin resembled a prizefight.
Andrew Harrison started things off for the Wildcats with a 3-pointer. Willie Cauley-Stein added an easy bucket to set Big Blue Nation a-frenzy.
Sam Dekker answered with a 3-pointer for the Badgers. Bronson Koenig added a deep jumper.
By the time the game reached the first media timeout, the teams were tied 9-all.
Remember, the Wildcats edged the Badgers 74-73 at the Final Four in Dallas a year ago. There is a good chance this one could be nip-and-tuck the entire way, too.
Kentucky has by far the largest contingent of fans at the Final Four, but Wisconsin is not far behind, making for a raucous atmosphere for Saturday night’s second semifinal.
Dueling chants of “Go big blue!” and “Let’s go Badgers!” echoed through Lucas Oil Stadium in the minutes before tipoff. Michigan State fans appear to be rooting for their Big Ten rivals, too, which should give Wisconsin plenty of support.
Kentucky won the tip and Andrew Harrison promptly knocked down a 3-pointer. Game on.
The Blue Devils have punched their ticket to the national championship game.
Now, it’s up to Kentucky and Wisconsin to decide who is going to join them Monday night.
Led by one of the best freshman classes in the history of the game, the Wildcats are 38-0, two victories away from a historic perfect season. The Badgers and AP player of the year Frank Kaminsky, meanwhile, hope to spoil a high-profile showdown with Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Blue Devils ran roughshod over Michigan State, 81-61, in the first national semifinal.
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