There’s a good chance that the “Frank Kaminsky” game just happened. But for now, head coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers and their massive crowd formed on State Street will only be focused one thing in the coming week: the Final Four.
In front of an Arizona-heavy, hostile crowd, the No. 2 seed Badgers took down No. 1 seed Arizona in a 64-63 overtime thriller to survive and advance to the tournament’s final weekend in Cowboys Stadium located in Dallas, Texas.
They were led by the West Regional Most Outstanding Player in junior center Frank Kaminsky, who scored 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting. That total is the second highest in Wisconsin NCAA tournament history after Michael Finley’s 36 in 1994.
This will be the first Final Four in Bo Ryan’s career, and the first for Wisconsin since former head coach Dick Bennett’s miracle run in 2000. After 13 straight tournament appearances, this was long overdue for the consistent Ryan.
Both teams shot below 40 percent from the field, with Kaminsky and Arizona sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski being the only starters to make more than half of their shots. Arizona came into this game ranked as the No. 1 defensive team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy ratings and showed it through their relentless ball pressure defense. Open shots were beyond scarce for the Badgers. A saving grace was that despite Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon’s 18 rebounds, the smaller Wisconsin team was able to keep it about even with rebounds at 38-39 Arizona.
The game started in Arizona’s favor, with the Wildcats taking a 22-14 lead in the first 13 minutes. Wisconsin was gradually able to claw back both before and after halftime, finally tying the score four minutes into the second half. From there, no team took a lead greater than three points. Regulation’s final score, an alley-oop from Arizona freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and a final step-back jumper from junior guard Traevon Jackson that clanked away put both teams at 54 points and sent them to overtime. Jackson’s shot might have been ill-advised, as Kaminsky was being guarded by 6 foot 3 inch Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson thanks to an Arizona defensive switch.
In the extra five minutes, the Badgers never trailed. Arizona’s best chance to go ahead for good fell short thanks to a questionable offensive foul on Johnson. Wisconsin failed to inbound the ball and gave Arizona a final shot, but Johnson was unable to get off a potential game-winner in time.
By game’s end, it was clear Frank Kaminsky’s star in college basketball was ready to shine. He was the clear offensive hero of the game, as Jackson was the only other Badger to score in double figures and that was on 4-of-14 shooting. When guarded by the seven-foot Tarczewski, Kaminsky was able to open his perimeter game, knocking down three 3-pointers. When guarded by Gordon, it was post moves and a deadly combination of footwork and length. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, seven of them offensive.
[UPDATE:] Wisconsin will play Kentucky Saturday at 7:49 central time in Arlington, Texas.