Wisconsin struggled to hold down Dukeâ€™s guard play in its December loss, the same was true during Mondayâ€™s national championship game. Tyus Jones poured in a game-high 23 points and Grayson Allen added 16 points off the bench to pace the Blue Devils to a 68-63 victory in the national title game.
The Badgers finished the season 36-4 and national runner up, their best finish since a national championship win in 1941.
Senior Frank Kaminsky had 21 points on 7 of 16 shooting and Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes added 25 points combined in the loss.
Wisconsin had the script flipped on them in this contest, as they put the Blue Devils on the line too many times in the second half. Duke ended the game 16 of 20 from the line, while the Badgers got to the line just 10 times overall and went 6 of 10.
Early on things were going at a very un-Wisconsin like fashion, with quick shots and fast pace on both ends. However, Wisconsin didnâ€™t buckle under early pressure and the lead changed four times in the first four minutes of the ballgame.
The Badgers were down 6-5 at the first media timeout, but it was just a sign of things to come in a back-and-forth first half. Duke and Wisconsin would exchange the lead 13 times, with Dukeâ€™s largest lead being five points and Wisconsinâ€™s three.
It was rather fitting then that the half ended with the score 31-31.
UW shot just 40 percent from the field (12-30), while allowing Duke to shoot 50 percent (13-26). However, it was the big three for the Badgers who kept them in the matchup.
Dekker, Hayes and Kaminsky put up 23 of the Badgersâ€™ 31 points in half, and more importantly the trio attacked Dukeâ€™s freshmen duo of Okafor and Winslow. They ended the half with two fouls each and Okafor spent just 12 minutes in the contest during the half.
The Badgers had trouble controlling the pace of the matchup, but were able to make up for that and some questionable shot selection thanks to an 8-2 advantage in offensive rebounds and 11 second chance points.
In the first matchup between the two teams, Wisconsin had eight second-chance points the entire game and the difference was noticeable in the national championship game.
Wisconsin came out guns blazing in the second half and opened up a five-point lead early in the half. The lead eventually ran to nine points, but the Badgers couldnâ€™t close the deal thanks to fouls and one Grayson Allen.
The reserve Duke guard led the Blue Devils bench with eight points in the second half comeback. With Dekker off the mark from deep there was no coming back for Wisconsin down the stretch either.
He went 0-6 from beyond the arc in the game and when the Badgers needed him most, the combination of bad outside shooting and Dukeâ€™s shutdown defense put him out of the game.
Wisconsin tried to fight back late in a contest that felt like it was slipping away. Kaminsky hit a three-pointer with Duke up 66-58, and after a miss on the other end it was Hayes with a dunk to make it 66-63 with 49 seconds left to play.
It would be the closest the Badgers would get thanks to a lack of timely fouling on defense and a lack of urgency on offense too.
Dekker and Kaminsky ended the tournament as All-Tournament selections though.
All Tournament Team Sam Dekker Frank Kaminsky Grayson Allen Justise Winslow Tyus Jones (Most Outstanding Player) #NCAAChampionship
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 7, 2015
While the ending was bitterly disappointing, this season will go down in Badger lore as the best team to play at the university. Big Ten regular season champions, Big Ten tournament champions and national runner-up â€” not too shabby of a season.