Sunday, April 05, 2015

March Madness - Badgers Devour Wildcats in Epic Rematch - Wisconsin Moves to Final


After a season of hype, consistent winning form, and a whole lot of basketball tradition, the epic semi-final rematch between the Kentucky Wildcats and Wisconsin Badgers lived up to the drama.

Just last year in the same match up in the national semi-finals, Kentucky edged Wisconsin by one point on a buzzer beater,  This year Wisconsin turned the tables and shocked the basketball world by ending Kentucky's historic 38 game winning streak two victories shy of perfection.

The final scoreboard read Wisconsin 71-64 but the grit and determination of the Badger squad in battling back from deficits was the determining factor.  Kentucky, as usual, fought back from deficits of nine-points in the first-half and 8 points in the second-half and with six minutes left in the game held a four point lead after outscoring Wisconsin 16-4.

Suddenly the Kentucky magic that saved their unbeaten season time-and-again went cold.  The team of destiny fell flat and only scored four points the rest of the game.  Wisconsin stars Frank Kaminsky, the MVP of the game, and Sam Dekker rallied the Badgers to a seven-point victory.

Shock waves swept through the Kentucky Blue nation as tears of sadness rather than joy were shed at the end of the game.  Twice in the closing minutes, bad calls by the refs went against UK, but they had plenty of opportunities to save the victory and did not.

For Wisconsin, the blue-collar team of basketball again rallied behind the most valuable player of the year in college basketball, Kaminsky, and the team never lost sight of their goal.  You see, it was never their intent to avenge the loss last year in the semi-final to Kentucky.

The Badgers focused solely on winning only the second national championship in history for Wisconsin, the last coming 74 long years ago.  To accomplish their mission, they have one more game, against mighty Duke, four-time national champion, Monday night in the finals.

Wisconsin was able to trade punches with Kentucky for the entire game because its front court shot well enough from the perimeter to force the Wildcats' big men out of the paint, opening up driving lanes for the Badgers.

In the end, Kentucky wasted a series of possessions after it built its four-point lead.
The Wildcats repeatedly bled the clock dry, put the ball in the hands of one of the Harrison twins and asked them to create off the dribble against Koenig, but they were not able to score with anywhere near the ease they did during a first half when they combined for 18 points.

Three straight Kentucky possessions ended in shot-clock violations during the final five minutes and the twins were unable to get the better of the matchup with Bronson Koenig.

UK Coach John Calipari looked at the stat sheet: Kentucky had only six turnovers, hit 90% of its free throws, made 48% of its field goals, and lost.

He said his team struggled to guard Wisconsin's players, and the rebound battle -- which Wisconsin won by 12 -- was crucial.

Kamisky, who turned 22 on Saturday, was asked how the Badgers out rebounded a team that is the tallest in basketball.

"We stayed into them, attacking them, trying to do whatever we can," he said. "Just trying to keep them off the glass was one of our main priorities."

 Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan said, "These guys just gutted it out."

Regardless of why it happened, the ending was still a shock for the legions of Kentucky fans making the trip to Indianapolis.  When most people expected Kentucky to move to the final step of a perfect season in the finals, the Badgers were the ones left celebrating.

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