Thirty Eight One And Done
By John Ventola
Kentucky Coach John Calipari had been describing his Wildcat basketballers as “not perfect, but unbeaten” for the last few weeks as the squad worked its way through the first four games of NCAA tournament action. His extremely talented team had run roughshod over most of the season’s competition, and survived a couple of regular season last second upset bids before besting Notre Dame by two points to capture the Midwest regional championship.
However, unbeaten Kentucky, easily the most dominant team in years, met the same fate as the last college team to enter a Final Four with an unblemished record. It lost a
semifinal matchup with Wisconsin, just as 1991’s Runnin Rebels of Nevada-Las Vegas lost to Duke to ruin their run to perfection twenty-four years ago.
The last college team to go undefeated was the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, mentored by Coach Bobby Knight. Indiana finished its perfect campaign 32-0. This year, Calipari’s squad had won thirty-eight games before losing.
Kentucky bested Wisconsin in last year’s semi-final game of the Final Four on a last second three-pointer by guard Aaron Harrison, 74-73. This time the two teams again went toe-to-toe in an exciting, but terribly officiated game. The Wildcats and Badgers exchanged basket for basket, rebound for rebound, each enjoying scoring spurts, but neither able to pull comfortably ahead.
With the game tied 56-56, Kentucky freshman star Karl-Anthony Towns rebounded errant shots on consecutive offensive trips and started new plays that resulted in baskets, giving the Wildcats a 60-56 lead with 6:42 remaining. Wisconsin failed to take advantage of a matchup error by Kentucky when star seven-footer Frank Kaminsky was not given the ball with 6-6 Aaron Harrison guarding him on their possession between the two baskets.
Play was halted as the field goal that increased the ‘Cat margin to four went through the basket, as one of the Wildcats big men, Trey Lyles, appeared to intentionally strike a Badger in the face as they positioned themselves for a potential rebound.
Unexplainably, the officials went to the scorer’s table, reviewed tape, and made no call. It was only the beginning of the worse seven minutes of collegiate officiating seen in a long time. Questionable calls, missed calls, a missed shot clock infraction, and a general abandonment of game control ensued. Both teams were victims.
The Badgers were facing a four-point deficit, had just been victim of a non-call, and had not scored a basket in seven minutes and ten seconds when Sam Dekker hit a crucial two pointer. A subsequent follow up basket after the shot clock had expired tied the game, and seemingly tightened up the Wildcats down the stretch. They failed to feed Towns down low, and went cold except for one shot from outside after Dekker’s three-pointer gave Wisconsin a 63-60 lead at the 1:42 mark. A free throw increased the lead to four, before Aaron Harrison three-pointer made it a one-point game with 56.2 left.
Kaminsky cooly hit two free throws at the 24.5 mark, and Towns made only one of his two charity throws eight seconds later to make it 66-64 Wisconsin. Badger Bronson
Koenig dropped in two free throws at 12.2, made another seconds later, and Kaminsky hit two final throws to finish off the game. Wisconsin’s last eight points in the final 1:42 came from the free throw line.
Duke defeated Michigan State in the other Final Four semifinal, 81-61. Michigan State jumped to a quick 14-6 lead when it hit five of its first seven shots, four of four from three-point range. Mike Krzyzewski called time out, made defensive adjustments, and Duke held the Spartans to 3 of 20 shooting the rest of the half.
Senior Quinn Cook combined with freshmen stars Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow for Duke’s well-balanced scoring, and easily moved away from Michigan State in the second half. Cook scored seventeen points on 6 of 12 shooting, Okafor had eighteen points and six rebounds, while Winslow put up nineteen points and nine rebounds.
Both Krzyzewski and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan will be going for their fifth national championship Monday night. Long-time Blue Devil coach Krzyzewski won titles in 1991, 1992, 2001, and 2010, while Ryan won four Division III championships at Wisconsin-Platteville. The two coaches, both born in 1947, are sticklers on fundamentals, with
Wisconsin being this year’s most efficient offense, and Duke being well versed in all aspects of the game. Krzyzewski won his 1,000 game coaching earlier this season, and is the NCAA career leader in wins.
Ryan will have to guard against a letdown by his team after pulling off the big upset of Kentucky if he is to hoist the NCAA Division I trophy. Krzyzewski is familiar with what that is like—his ’91 Blue Devils defeated unbeaten UNLV, stayed focused, and topped Kansas for his first NCAA title.
The championship game promises to be a classic between two solid, fundamentally sound teams, coached by two of the finest strategists in the game. I, for one, hope the NCAA assigns referees who have passed their recent eye tests, and can remember when, and for what reason, a whistle should be blown to maintain the flow of a game.Thanks For Visiting JV Sport Shots .Com’s Website And Viewing Our Latest Blog(s) / Page(s). We Would Really Appreciate It If You Would Leave Us A Comment Or Remark Below. This Helps Us Provide Great Sports Content; You Would Like To See In Future Posts.
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