In a West Regional title game that will go down as a real Saturday night special, Wisconsin overcame all sorts of setbacks, including a last-second replay review, to defeat Arizona in overtime.
The final score was 64-63 before a crowd of 17,814 at Honda Center.
The final seconds will be cherished but, thankfully, not further reviewed.
Wisconsin (30-7) advances to next week’s Final Four in Texas, the Badgers’ first visit to basketball’s last weekend since 2000.
“This is like nothing else I’ve ever felt before,” said Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky, named the region’s most outstanding player
A replay of the last seconds should be forwarded to the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Isn’t the game these days all about reviews, charge calls, and officials’ refusing to swallow their whistles?
It started with Arizona’s Nick Johnson, with 3.2 seconds left, getting called for a charge on John Gasser.
It was a showdown pitting the Pac-12 player of the year and a two-time member of the Big Ten all-defensive team.
“He’s a really fun player to guard,” Gasser said of Johnson.
It appeared another great game was going to end with a dreaded “block-or-charge?” call, but fate, or something, rescued the night from possible infamy
Johnson’s “charge” was followed by another bang-bang call on a ball that was knocked out of bounds.
The officials huddled around the replay monitor and shooed nosy Wisconsin players away from the critical discussion.
The ball, initially awarded to Wisconsin, was reversed and given to Arizona with 2.3 seconds left.
It was announced in the press room later that 14 different angles were used to review the play.
Gabe York got the ball into Johnson, who dribbled around the top of the key but missed a jump shot at the buzzer.
The official game book listed one second left, but Johnson confirmed what most at courtside saw: “I didn’t get it off. I wish I would have taken one less dribble.”
It was too bad somebody had to lose, but somebody did.
“When you lose it’s like a car crashes,” Arizona Coach Sean Miller said. “You know. It’s just you’re done.”
The night’s hero was the seven-foot Kaminsky, who finished with 28 points — six in the overtime — and 11 rebounds.
Teammate Ben Brust said of Kaminsky: “He’s a beast and I’m very proud of him.”
Said Kaminsky: “I just wanted to do anything I could to make sure that we won that basketball game.”
Johnson led Arizona (33-5) with 16 points, with Aaron Gordon adding eight points and 18 rebounds.
Honda Center continued to be a horror house for Arizona in the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats losing for the fourth time in the regional final since 1998.
What happened to home-regional advantage?
The game was 54-all after regulation and the overtime shifted the drama into overdrive as the schools matched shots and snarls.
Brust put Wisconsin ahead with a three-pointer that was quickly answered by Gordon.
Kaminsky flipped in a close-range shot that put the Badgers up by two, but Gordon answered with a dunk.
Wisconsin made another basket, and then so did Arizona.
It went on like this all night.
It appeared Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson was going to be the hero in regulation ... twice.
His driving basket with 1:05 left put Wisconsin up, 54-52.
That might have been the end of if not for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s follow slam off a Johnson airball with 34 seconds left.
Wisconsin worked the clock for the last shot, but Jackson missed a good look with the taller Gordon (6-9) defending in his face.
The game was a wrestling match with neither side able to get a pin. The winning — and losing teams—shot 39%.
“There was a lot of gnashing going on,” Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said.
Ryan spent much of his night jawing at officials as they ran past him on the court. He got called for a technical with 7:59 left in the half and it cost his Badgers two points they could have used at the end of regulation.
The Badgers had only 14 points after 16 minutes as Arizona controlled the pace of play. You looked up at the half, though, and Arizona was leading by only three.
“Could have gone either way,” Miller said of the game. “Obviously, it’s very disappointing when it doesn’t.”
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