INDIANAPOLIS — Sam Dekker hit a three over Willie Cauley-Stein with two minutes left to break a 60-all tie as the Wisconsin Badgers played the role of the ultimate spoiler, beating No. 1 and then-undefeated Kentucky, 71-64.
Dekker was, again, terrific, finishing with 16 points after scoring 50 in the two games in Los Angeles last weekend. He started out the game on fire, but cooled off until the final minutes, when he made a number of huge plays. The three that he hit capped a 7-0, game-changing run, and on the ensuing possession, he drew
“I knew it was good off the hand,” Dekker said. “Came off [a ball-screen]. Karl-Anthony got on his heels a little bit, thought I was going to drive. Able to free up some space on a setback.
“I was waiting for a good look like that all night. […] When I had that look, I knew I had to put it up.”
National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky added 20 points and 11 boards for Wisconsin, who will advance to take on Duke in Monday’s national title game.
It was fitting that point guard Bronson Koenig, who is only starting because Traevon Jackson broke his foot in the middle of the season, put the finishing touches on the win with a pair free throws in the final seconds. He hit a number of massive threes for the Badgers. He finished with 12 points, two assists and, most importantly, zero turnovers against the nation’s best defense.
“I knew Bronson had that in him,” head coach Bo Ryan said.
Wisconsin started out both halves on fire, jumping out to a 23-14 lead in the first half and taking an eight-point lead early in the second half after the Wildcats had managed to come back and tie the game at the break.
Midway through the second half, it looked like Kentucky was about to take control. With eight minutes left, Wisconsin was on the wrong end of a brutal charge call. The Wildcats had erased their second big deficit, using a 12-4 run to tie the game at 56. The majority-Kentucky crowd rose in unison, Lucas Oil Stadium getting as loud as it had been all night, but the Badgers seemed to turn the tide of the momentum, as Josh Gasser found Bronson Koenig, who appeared to drill yet another huge three.
But Gasser was called for a charge on a play where Aaron Harrison clearly slid under him while he was in the air, and then Harrison scored on a driving layup at the other end, putting Kentucky ahead 58-56. Karl Anthony-Towns scored on the ensuing possession, and it looked as if the Wildcats had taken control of the game.
The Badgers weren’t going to roll over, however. Maligned for their defense, Wisconsin forced shot clock violations from the Wildcats on three straight possessions, using a 7-0 run — capped by Dekker’s three with two minutes left — to take a lead they would never relinquish.