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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Frank Kaminsky

Frank Kaminsky led all scorers with 20 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds.

UW's efficient offense, dominant rebounding lead way against Kentucky

INDIANAPOLIS— Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers accomplished what no other team in college basketball had done this season: defeat the Kentucky Wildcats.

Thirty-eight teams had tried before them, and all 38 had failed in their attempt to take down Kentucky. But the Badgers were up to the task in Indianapolis, as they avenged their heartbreaking loss to the Wildcats in last year’s Final Four.

So how did UW pull off the upset? While you could point to a number of different contributing factors, there’s no question that two of the biggest reasons for the Badgers’ victory were their ultra-efficient performance on offense and their impressive work on the glass. Add in the team’s unwavering resiliency, and you have all the ingredients for a win that stands on par with just about any in program history.

Since Ken Pomeroy began tracking tempo-free statistics back in 2002, no team has posted a higher adjusted offensive efficiency rating than Wisconsin has this season, and it was on full display at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Badgers scored 1.23 points per possession in Saturday night’s win, with that number reaching as high as 1.42 at one point in the second half, according to SBNation.

While these kinds of numbers would be impressive under just about any circumstances, they’re simply jaw-dropping when you consider the fact they were against a Kentucky team that came into the night with the best defense of the KenPom era. Wisconsin has now scored at least 1.20 points per possession in 10 of its last 11 games, but its performance against Kentucky may have been its best over that stretch.

While the UW defense was far from perfect, the Badgers were able to hold UK’s All-American junior forward Willie Cauley-Stein to just two points and five rebounds on the night.

Wisconsin also did an incredible job cleaning up on the glass, outrebounding the Wildcats 34-22, including a 12-6 edge on the offensive glass.

Gaudy numbers like that help explain how the Wildcats could lose despite the fact they shot 48.1 percent from the floor, 60 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line while turning the ball over just six times.

“We just tried to do whatever we could to stay into them. We know if they get another offensive rebound, they get another chance to score,” said senior forward Frank Kaminsky. “They're such a good offensive team, if they get buckets that way, it's going to be a long night. Just trying to keep them off the glass is one of our main priorities.”

Kaminsky, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Saturday, was pivotal to UW’s success against Kentucky, recording game highs with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Junior forward Sam Dekker also continued his incredible surge during the NCAA Tournament, scoring 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers. This included a go-ahead, step-back triple that Dekker hit with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, which put the Badgers up for good.

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Dekker’s 3-pointer was part of a 15-4 run for Wisconsin over the last 4:26 of the game, which followed a seven-minute stretch where the Badgers didn’t score a field goal as the Wildcats seized a 60-56 lead.

But despite its scoring drought, Wisconsin never wavered or panicked and righted the ship for the final minutes of the game.

“We got down today a little bit, but we didn't change our expression, we didn't change what we did, we didn't freak out,” Dekker said. “We knew if we played our game, we'd get back into it, come back, crawl back.”

Thanks to their collective resilience, the Badgers rose up when it came down to crunch time and found a way to take down a Kentucky team that had, up to that point, always been able to pull out a win whenever it had its back against the wall this season.

“Extremely proud of the way our guys hung in there when it looked like we dug ourselves a hole that we could never get out of,” said UW head coach Bo Ryan. “When you don't score a field goal in about a seven-minute period, the other team got hot. When we got down four, we just kept battling on every possession.

“It was just the end, the last five minutes. Again, these guys just gutted it out.”

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