Final Four rematch: It’s UK-Wisconsin again

first_imgCLEVELAND – Since Aaron Harrison’s final dagger dropped with six seconds left in last year’s national semifinal, Wisconsin has been on a mission.“That loss left a sour taste in our mouth, so we wanted to get back,” Badgers forward Sam Dekker said Saturday after winning the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional to return to the Final Four.Since Connecticut ruined Kentucky’s storybook ending in the national championship game last season, the Wildcats have been similarly motivated.“Just two more games,” said Andrew Harrison late Saturday night after hitting the clinching free throws against Notre Dame to get UK into its second straight Final Four and fourth in five years under coach John Calipari. “You really remember that feeling you had after the (title) game last year. You don’t want to have that feeling again.”Tweet by Courier-Journal.comBut someone’s redemption tour will be stopped short in the rematch. The undefeated Wildcats (38-0) must go through red-hot Wisconsin (35-3) again, this time in Indianapolis, for their shot at a ninth NCAA championship and college basketball’s first 40-0 season.The Badgers, who returned eight of the nine guys who played in last year’s Final Four duel with Kentucky, have won 10 straight games and hit 10 of 12 3-pointers in the second half Saturday to blow by Arizona.“I know (Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan, and he’s a great friend, and how good he coaches,” said Calipari, who has won 15 of his last 16 NCAA Tournament games. “I’ve said all along I thought the (four) best teams were us, Wisconsin and Arizona and Duke. And other teams are right there, but those four seem to be a little bit better than the others.”The Badgers have a combination of shooting and size – seven players 6-8 or taller, including 6-9 Dekker and 7-foot All-American Frank Kaminsky – to threaten the Cats. Kentucky, with just one major contributor shorter than 6-6, ultimately overtook the Fighting Irish with a massive mismatch in length.“That’s a great matchup,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey after his team fell just short in a 68-66 thriller. “Wisconsin’s a little bit like us: they’re skilled and they can spread people out. They have a little more bulk and frontline size, but they’re really skilled offensive guys, and certainly we were able to get some things tonight.”Analysis | Towns, UK outlast Notre Dame 68-66The Cats returned just five of the guys who played against Wisconsin the first time, and lost their top two scorers from that 74-73 classic, but that doesn’t mean the Cats are less equipped. This team is actually far better than that one. They added four McDonald’s All-Americans, including 6-11 freshman star Karl-Anthony Towns, who poured in 25 points against the Irish.Junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, the nation’s top defender who helped save Saturday’s game with a late block, was injured and didn’t play the Badgers last year. But he knows this will be a challenge.“I’m glad we have a week to prepare for them,” Cauley-Stein said. “The way they play together is the best in the country. This is when I’m glad we don’t have one day to prepare for them. One day to prepare for a team like Notre Dame? That’s why we couldn’t stop them. If we’d had a couple more days to see where the holes are …. but the way they run their offense is crazy. You really can’t stop it.Analysis | Towns, UK outlast Notre Dame 68-66“It’s really them missing shots, and you get the rebounds, and that’s how you stop them. Otherwise they’re going to get their shots up, and if they’re making them, it’s going to be a long night.”One of the Wildcats’ newcomers, rookie point guard Tyler Ulis, is still familiar with Wisconsin’s best player, Kaminsky. They’re both former Illinois high school stars and played in the same league.Ulis is new to this matchup, and this stage, but he knows what to expect.“Another hard-fought game,” he said, “and I feel like they want some get-back from last year.”Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTucker_CJ.last_img

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