INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 04: The Wisconsin Badgers celebrate after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats as Willie Cauley-Stein #15 looks on during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Wisconsin defeated Kentucky  71-64. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Badgers bounce Kentucky, earn national title tilt with Duke

Kentucky came in to the game 38-0, but the Wisconsin Badgers became the one in 38 and 1, taking down the Kentucky Wildcats 71-64 in a true heavyweight fight at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Revenge, redemption…whatever the national narrative was before the game, it didn’t matter much to the teams on the court on this Saturday night.

Instead, the Wisconsin Badgers and Kentucky Wildcats decided to duplicate the heavyweight bout from last season…only this time it was the Badgers cleaning up in the final minute to control the game.

Frank Kaminsky led the way on the stat sheet, putting up a double double with 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting and 10 rebounds in the win.

He wasn’t alone in double figures though, as Sam Dekker put up 16 points and both Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig added 12 points in the winning effort.

Dekker, who has been the star of the tournament for UW, came up huge in the final minutes. He may have had 16 points on the night, but six of them came down the stretch as he took the Badgers out of their offensive funk and on to the national championship game.

With Wisconsin down 60-56 and under five minutes to play, Dekker made a bunny jumper to pull the Badgers within two and from there he put Wisconsin on top 63-60 with a dagger of a three-pointer with 1:44 to play.

Dekker would go on to hit a free throw and push UW’s lead to two possessions with 1:04 to play.

From there it was all Wisconsin from the free throw line, as they exacted a measure of revenge and moved one step closer to the goal Kaminsky and Dekker came back for — the Badgers first national championship since the 1941 season.

It took Wisconsin a bit to find a lead in this contest, but when it did it was able to stretch it to as many as 10 points. However, this was a heavyweight fight and UK wasn’t about to go away. Instead they pulled the lead back to a manageable amount and struck when the time was right — late in the first half.

Kentucky ended the first half shooting 60 percent from the field, while the Badgers used a 7-1 advantage in offensive rebounds to keep the scoreboard in a deadlock at 36-36 at the half.

Wisconsin was paced by Kaminsky in the half, who had nine points on 4 of 5 shooting, while Kentucky countered with the Harrison twins and their combined 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting in the half.

While Kaminsky had a nice first half, it was not dominant in any fashion. That was quickly put to rest, as he put up seven of the Badgers’ first 10 points of the half and Wisconsin took a 46-44 lead.

His play on the defensive end of the court was also impressive, and Wisconsin fed off it on the other end of the court too.

Kentucky wouldn’t go away in the second half either though, and they climbed right back in after going down by nine points. They climbed all the way back in to the lead thanks to a controversial charge call taken by Aaron Harrison.

After Josh Gasser drove and dished to an open Koenig for a three (that was good), Gasser was called for a charge despite visual evidence suggesting Harrison was clearly moving in to Gasser’s space post-pass. It went the other way and UK made a bucket to take a 58-56 lead instead of being down 59-56 the other way.

It also didn’t help that Wisconsin went on a 5 minute, 30 second streak without a bucket. However, the Badgers kept themselves in the contest by forcing three key shot clock violations on three straight Kentucky possessions.

Dekker stopped the field goal drought with a tough lay in after the second stop and made it a 60-58 score. From there the rest will live on in Badgers’ lore.

Wisconsin will take on Duke for the national championship on Monday night, with tip scheduled for 8:18pm CT.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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