Championship game set in Indy
INDIANAPOLIS-- The perfect season ended imperfectly in a hail of airballs, shot clock violations and turnovers. Just as it looked like Kentucky had taken Wisconsin's best shot and was about to set the stage for chance at perfection on Monday night, the Badgers defense, reeling all game, stood as tall as possible.
Kentucky went 5 minutes without scoring a single point and Wisconsin, refusing to blink where every team had all season against the Wildcats, willed its way to a chance at a championship of its own against Duke, winning 71-64.
Wisconsin, playing an offense from some other planet, led 23-14, but once John Calipari yelled at his big men to stop taking jump shots and his team, playing with a smaller, quicker lineup, started to run the ball at the rim, the Badgers defense was in trouble. They hung around because they retrieved enough of the shots they missed to have 11 second-chance points at the half.
Wisconsin, again scoring every time, ran out to a 52-44 lead early in the second half, but Kentucky got better again. Wisconsin really looked like it had hit the wall. Kentucky looked like they had it, leading 60-56, with two chances to get more and probably end it. They got no more and Wisconsin ended it.
Nobody has been able to guard the Badgers big three all season. Kentucky could not either. Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky had a game-high 20 points. Running mates Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes had 28 more.
Wisconsin got to play another game. Kentucky finally blinked and finally lost a game.
Duke got 54 points from its two lottery pick freshmen (Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow) and its tough senior Quinn Cook. That was almost enough to win in an 81-61 blowout that was never close once the Blue Devils got control.
Michigan State played a perfect 4 minutes. It was the next 36 there were a problem. Duke's defense, terrific all tournament, took the Spartans out of absolutely everything they wanted to do. MSU made 5 of its first 7 shots and all four of its threes. They missed 17 of their next 20 and all five threes. It was essentially over by halftime and really over early in the second half when Duke's lead ballooned to 54-34.
The Blue Devils beat the Spartans by 10 across town in November, by 20 in April at massive Lucas Oil Stadium. Michigan State was actually better than then, but Duke was frighteningly better, winning with complete ease on a night they made just two threes, but scored 69 points in the lane or on free throws.