38 and No
INDIANAPOLIS - Nobody ever said they were perfect. Now, the Kentucky Wildcats aren't undefeated, either. The hard-nosed Wisconsin Badgers did Saturday night what nobody else could, knocking off the Wildcats, 71-64, behind 20 points and 11 rebounds by Frank Kaminsky and a clutch comeback down the stretch.
INDIANAPOLIS - Nobody ever said they were perfect. Now, the Kentucky Wildcats aren't undefeated, either.
The hard-nosed Wisconsin Badgers did Saturday night what nobody else could, knocking off the Wildcats, 71-64, behind 20 points and 11 rebounds by Frank Kaminsky and a clutch comeback down the stretch.
Now, it's Wisconsin heading to the final to play Duke, an 81-61 winner over Michigan State in the earlier - and much less entertaining - semifinal.
"It gives us another 40 minutes, I know that," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, the Chester native who leads the Badgers to their first final since 1941.
And Kentucky has a long ride home. The Wildcats close the season at 38-1 - two wins short of becoming the first undefeated team in college basketball since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. Instead, this NBA-ready group of Wildcats joins the star-studded 1991 UNLV team as the latest to take an undefeated record into the Final Four but lose in the semifinals.
Trending on Twitter: "38-and-Done" and "38-and-1."
All easy pickings for the many detractors of John Calipari's group of "one- and-done" players, all-Americans, and other future first-round and lottery picks.
There are other programs with talent, though.
Wisconsin has some future pros, and they came up big in the biggest game of their lives - a rematch of last year's semifinal, when the Wildcats won, 74-73.
The Wildcats had the reputation as the team that never quits when things don't look so good - as in last week's win over Notre Dame - but Wisconsin came up clutch this time.
"They did to us what we've been doing to other teams all season," Calipari said. "They executed down the stretch, and we didn't."
Trailing by four and gasping for breath with their hands on their knees after going six minutes without a bucket, the Badgers (36-3) responded with an 8-0 run to take a lead Kentucky couldn't overcome.
It started with a tough, twisting shot by a future NBA player, Sam Dekker (16 points), and kept going when Nigel Hayes tipped in an air ball after the shot clock had clearly turned to zero. No violation was called, and in a game full of shaky officiating that left both coaches screaming, it generated momentum for the Badgers and left Kentucky flat.
With the game tied at 60, Andrew Harrison missed on Kentucky's next possession. Then Dekker spotted up for a three-pointer that gave Wisconsin the lead for good with 1 minute, 42 seconds left.
Wisconsin was ahead, 64-63, with 24 seconds left when Kaminsky, who was celebrating his 22d birthday, hit two free throws. He and Bronson Koenig went 7 for 8 from the line over the last 24 seconds to seal the win.
"Best birthday present I've ever had," Kaminsky said.
Kentucky's last, best chance came while trailing by three with 12 seconds left. But Karl-Anthony Towns received the ball in the post and got fouled. He made only one free throw, and from there, Wisconsin iced it from the line.