The men’s basketball national championship is set, as the Duke Blue Devils will face the Wisconsin Badgers, who ended Kentucky’s bid for a perfect season on Saturday. The two No. 1 seeds will meet on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Saturday’s late game was one of the most spirited and contentious Final Four games in recent memory. Wisconsin was able to hold off undefeated Kentucky with the help of a three-point shot by Sam Dekker with 1:44 remaining that helped spark a 13-4 run to advance the Badgers to the final, 71-64.
Kentucky entered the NCAA tournament as the prohibitive favorite to win the title, but a matchup against a red-hot Wisconsin squad after a tight UK victory over Notre Dame in the Elite Eight left Coach John Calipari’s squad looking somewhat vulnerable. Wisconsin was able to knock down three-point shots (7-17) and outrebound Kentucky, 34-22, but what clinched the victory was the Badgers converting seven of their final eight free throws in the game’s final moments.
Kaminsky Scores 20
Center Frank Kaminsky led the way for Wisconsin on his 22nd birthday, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Dekker was also instrumental in the win, converting six of his nine field-goal attempts for 16 points.
“Best birthday present I have ever had,” said Kaminsky, recently named the national player of the year.
While the victory was among the biggest in Wisconsin history, head coach Bo Ryan stressed that there is still another game to go.
"It gives us another 40 minutes, I know that," Ryan said.
The Wildcats seemed to run out of gas late in the game. Inside the final seven minutes, Kentucky scored only two field goals, and struggled to contain the Badgers on defense. It was a painful exit for a team seeking to make history by finishing 40-0.
The game was not without some controversy. The officials negated a three-point basket by Wisconsin due to a questionable charging foul on Josh Gasser with 8:01 remaining. Later, there was also an apparent flagrant foul by Kentucky's Trey Lyles on Gasser that was not even whistled for a foul. As the game progressed, the calls seemed to balance out, with the referees giving Wisconsin the benefit of the doubt with some tight foul calls.
The first half was also a spirited affair, with Kentucky jumping out to a 5-0 lead but then allowing Wisconsin to go on a 16-6 run. The Badgers would lead by as many as nine points, but the Wildcats would chip away at the lead, and even owned a two-point lead before Wisconsin guard Bronson Koening hit a long-distance jumper with his foot on the three-point line to even the score at the halftime buzzer, 36-36.
The Wildcats shot an impressive 60 percent in the first half, but were out-rebounded by the Badgers, 15-10. Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison converted five of his six shot attempts in the first half to lead all scorers with 11 points, but Karl-Anthony Towns would lead the Wildcats for the game with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Winslow, Okafor Lead Duke
In the early game, the Blue Devils advanced behind a strong defensive effort to earn a convincing victory over the Michigan State Spartans, 81-61. Duke received big offensive production from three players, as Justise Winslow scored 19 points, while Jahlil Okafor added 18 and Quinn Cook provided 17.
Michigan State had a six-point lead in the early going, but failed to score a field goal in the last six minutes despite improved shot selection.
"After the first four minutes, we were a different team. We played great basketball tonight, especially on the defensive end," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I'm so proud of my guys because they beat a great team."
Coach Tom Izzo’s squad converted just eight of its 26 field-goal attempts (30.8 percent) in the first half, and trailed the Blue Devils at the break, 36-25. Duke also found its way to the free-throw line more in the first half, with 16 attempts compared to Michigan State’s seven attempts.
The Spartans would increase their scoring production in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to hold off of Blue Devils. Duke shot 52 percent from the field, and outrebounded Michigan State, 36-33, and had nine steals compared to Michigan State’s four. The closest Michigan State would come was 13 points.
"It's an amazing thing, I mean, just to be in the Final Four, but to play on Monday night is the ultimate honor," Krzyzewski said. "I hope our guys get their rest and we can get the same type of effort we got tonight."
This will be Duke’s 11th appearance in the national championship. The last time Wisconsin reached the final was in 1941.