The most memorable season in Wisconsin basketball history fell one win short. The Badgers led by 9 with just over 13-minutes to play against Duke, but the Blue Devils went on a 10-0 run and closed out a 68-63 victory over the Badgers to win their 5th National Championship.
The Badgers had the most difficult road, beating teams like Oregon, North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. But even after falling to Duke way back in December at the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Badgers couldn’t return the favor in last night’s NCAA Championship game.
Four seniors, Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan, played their final games for the Badgers. Junior forward Sam Dekker hasn’t announced whether or not he’ll be back next season.
The Badgers settle for a 36-4 record. Frank Kaminsky finished with 21 points for Wisconsin, but Sam Dekker struggled. He finished with 12 points, hitting 0-for-6 from three-point range.
Duke (35-4) won its fifth national title under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Nigel Hayes added 13 points and said he will be returning for his junior season at Wisconsin. Bronson Koenig scored 9 of his 10 points in the second half. Senior Josh Gasser took only one shot and didn’t score.
Freshman Tyus Jones scored 23 points to lead all scorers for Duke. 19 of his 23 points came in the second half. Freshman guard Grayson Allen added 16 off the bench. He hit 5 of 8 from the field and 5 of 5 from the free throw line.
The Badgers committed just 2 fouls in the first half but were called for 13 fouls in the second half, which frustrated Wisconsin’s players and coaches. Duke hit 16 of 20 free throws, including 12 of 16 in the second half. Wisconsin entered the game leading the nation in fewest fouls per game (12.4) and entered the title game with more made free throws (642) than its opponent had attempted (579).
Coach Bo Ryan was asked several times after the game to comment on the officiating. Ryan held back, but still had something to say.
Michigan State is the last Big Ten team to win the national title, doing so back in 2000. Wisconsin became the sixth team since that time to fail in the NCAA title game.
It was a disappointing loss for the Badgers and many people are looking to blame the officiating, but when push comes to shove, the Badgers made shots and scored points on their path to the title game. When they needed it one more time, Wisconsin just couldn’t find a way to finish things off.
It was a great season, one that will be remembered for a long time. But the hurt by the players, especially the seniors who fell just short, will also be remembered for a long time.