The same old script: Another tournament game, another dramatic win for Kentucky, this time 74-73 over Wisconsin in the Final Four thanks to a game winning three-pointer from Aaron Harrison, who isn’t new to the situation.
Kentucky make it five wins by a total of 18 points, and yet another big shot that puts them ahead of a team that played them very well. But the Wildcats have gotten together in a way that’s more than just X’s and O’s. There’s some sort of magical aura suddenly surrounding this team, which can be said about any group that gets the #8 seed and makes it this far.
Wisconsin had Traevon Jackson on the line with the game tied at 71-71. They were a perfect 17-of-17 up to that point, but Jackson missed one out of three, which gave Kentucky the opening for the game winning shot. They didn’t go for the tie or anything less risqué. Aaron Harrison pulling up for a three, with a hand in his face, but as he said a couple of times during this tournament, you can’t be afraid to take these kind of shots.
It was Jackson who started the final dribble for Wisconsin on one last desperation play. He got off a runner without anything really special on the defensive end from Kentucky, but it just wasn’t to be and the Badgers, making their first Final Four under Bo Ryan, went down in a game that looked to be slipping away from them until some impressive defense and shooting in the second half had them back holding the steering wheel.
Kentucky once again outrebounded their opponents which included 11 offensive rebounds. They outscored Wisconsin by 22 points in the paint and attempted 74% of their field goals in the paint in each of their last two games, with only two other teams have had a higher percentage in the last five Men’s Basketball Championship. Julius Randle, who had to leave the game early on before coming back, was extremely efficient. Not just his 16 points, but Kentucky in general scoring 21 points in the 13 possessions Randle got to touch the ball in the paint while shooting 8-of-12 from the field.
Frank Kaminsky wasn’t the guy we saw in the previous rounds, held to 8 points and 5 rebounds. Brust hit three from beyond the arc and Duje Dukan added a couple more. Bronson Koenig scored 11 points off the bench but Wisconsin had a hard time on the glass and eventually it came down to one big shot on one end and a miss or two. It’s that simple.
Alex Poythress was huge for the Wildcats coming off the bench with 8 points and 7 rebounds, as Kentucky needed a little bit more from their bench than usual with Dakari Johnson playing only 18 minutes and Randle hobbling out of the game early on. Wisconsin’s momentum never allowed them to break away for good against Kentucky, and the same clutch gene that made an appearance in the previous games of the tournament came back to bite the Badgers in the final seconds.
He has that clutch gene. They know I believe in them. Aaron knows. If you’ve watched us, we have a bunch of stars on this team. He was smiling, like he knew he was going to make it. He’s a big-time player. I’ve never seen anything like it.