Short of Perfection: UK loses heartbreaker to Wisconsin in Final Four
04/04/2015 10:10 PM
Indianapolis — Perfection denied. Undefeated no more.
Karl-Anthony Towns posted 16 points and 9 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as Kentucky lost its first game of the season 71-64 to Wisconsin in the Final Four on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It was the first time the Badgers had won a game in the Final Four since 1941.
Wisconsin (36-3) advances to play Duke in the national championship game on Monday after the Blue Devils defeated No. 7 seed Michigan State 81-61 in the first semifinal of the day.
The Wildcats finish the season 38-1 — losers for the first time this season, and for the first time since last year’s title defeat to UConn.
It was a tense back-and-forth battle the entire game, but after Kentucky took a 60-56 lead with 6:37 remaining, the Badgers outscored the Cats 15-4 the rest of the way to avenge last year’s loss in the national semifinals.
The Wildcats were trying to become the first team to finish the season as undefeated champions since Indiana in 1976, but it wasn’t meant to be.
AP National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky scored a game-high 20 points along with 11 rebounds to lead Wisconsin, who held +12 advantage both on the glass (34-22) and at the free throw line (18-22 to Kentucky’s 9-10).
Junior forward Sam Dekker added 16 more for the Badgers, taking advantage of smaller guards defending him in the post all game as UK continually switched on pick and rolls.
UK lost its first game of the season despite shooting 48% from the field (26-54) and 60% from three (3-5). Wisconsin wasn’t bad itself, though, making 47% of its shots against Kentucky’s vaunted defense, including a difference-making 7-17 mark on three-point attempts
Outside of the players’ performances, there were several controversial calls from the officiating crew throughout the game, one of which was a momentous missed shot clock violation against Wisconsin in the final minutes.
With 2:35 left, UW’s Nigel Hayes regathered from a Towns block to score after the shot clock had clearly turned to “0.” The television replays confirmed time had expired, but the officials called no violation, instead rewarding Wisconsin with two points to tie the score at 60. The ruling was not reviewable since the game clock was not yet under the two-minute mark.
Nevertheless, the Cats still had their chances in the final moments. But unlike last year, it was Wisconsin who came through in the clutch.
Andrew Harrison missed a layup on the other end after the missed violation, and Dekker took advantage, hitting a step-back dagger three pointer with 1:25 remaining to give Wisconsin the lead for good.
After going more than five minutes without scoring, Aaron Harrison converted a three-point play with 56.2 seconds left to pull UK within 64-63. But Towns went 1-2 from the line with UK down three with 16 seconds remaining, allowing Wisconsin to convert two of its own on the other end to go up 68-64 and seal the deal with a two-possession lead.
The twins combined for 25 points on 10-21 shooting.
First-Team All-American Willie Cauley-Stein underwhelmed in his much-hyped matchup against Kaminsky, totaling only two points and five rebounds in 33 minutes of play.
Wisconsin advances to play Duke in the national championship game on Monday. The Blue Devils defeated No. 7 seed Michigan State 81-61 in the first semifinal game.