Wisconsin, Ryan reach Final Four
The Sports Xchange
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After 704 career victories, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan is headed to the Final Four.
Ryan has taken the Badgers to 13 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, but he was 0-1 in his only regional final appearance before Wisconsin won the West with a 64-63 overtime thriller against top-seeded Arizona on Saturday night at the Honda Center.
"I'm extremely proud, but it's always about the players," said Ryan, who also noted Saturday would have been his father's 90th birthday.
"He was always about the kids he helped mentor. And that's why I do it. To be able to see the faces of these guys and the genuine excitement ... that's all I want to see."
The Badgers, who were seeded second in the West, got 28 points from All-Big Ten center Frank Kaminsky, including six in overtime, and survived two Arizona possessions in the final seconds of overtime.
The Wildcats (33-5) had a chance to take the last shot in overtime after Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson missed a layup with the Badges leading 64-63.
Point guard T.J. McConnell missed an 18-footer, but forward Aaron Gordon tipped the rebound back to McConnell. Guard Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year who ended up with the ball on the drive, was called for an offensive foul with 3.2 seconds left as Arizona coach Sean Miller looked on in disbelief.
"I thought it was a really, really tough call," Miller said before pausing. "I'm going to stop there."
There was a delay of several minutes as officials reviewed up to 14 angles of the ensuing inbounds play, as Jackson and Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson battled for a ball that went out of bounds. Officials reversed the call to give the ball to Arizona with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Guard Gabe York gave the inbounds pass to Johnson, who dribbled to his left in search of a shot, but his 15-footer, which missed, came after the buzzer.
"I wish I had taken one less dribble, get the shot off, give us a little chance," Johnson said.
Kaminsky, who also had 11 rebounds, scored on a layup, a hook shot and then a tip-in with one minute left in overtime to give Wisconsin a 64-61 lead. He hit 3 of 5 3-point shots, showing off his inside-outside skills. He was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the regional after posting his second career double-double.
"When we have a guy like Frank who is such a dual threat, it really helps open up some things for all of us," said guard Ben Brust, who wore the net around his neck at the postgame press conference. "He's a beast."
Miller said, "Frank Kaminsky is the reason Wisconsin is in the Final Four."
Wisconsin (30-7) will play the winner of Sunday's game between Kentucky and Michigan. This is the Badgers' first appearance in the Final Four since 2000.
Arizona was trying to reach its first Final Four since losing to Duke in the 2001 national title game. The Wildcats have lost their last four regional finals and are 0-4 overall in regional finals in Anaheim.
"That was an incredible game," Miller said. "When you lose, it's like a car crashes, you know? It's just that you're done. But I'm so proud of this team. ... In the history of Arizona, we have to put our team as one of the great teams that have played."
Jackson was the only other Badger in double-figure scoring with 10 points.
Johnson led Arizona with 16 points. Hollis-Jefferson scored 10. Gordon had a career-high 18 rebounds to go with eight points in what likely was the freshman's final college game, although he declined to speculate about his NBA future in the locker room.
Neither Arizona nor Wisconsin gives up much easy on defense -- and neither offense is turnover-prone -- so there was little in the way of the transition game. Each team had to grind in the half-court, never able gain big momentum swings.
With Arizona trailing 54-52 in the final minute of regulation and the shot clock at about 5, Johnson put up a contested 15-foot air-ball that Hollis-Jefferson grabbed and dunked with 30.9 seconds left. Wisconsin had the last shot, but Jackson missed a step-back 18-footer in the final seconds.
Wisconsin will head to the Final Four with its best offense of the Ryan era and its always-tough defense that held Arizona to 39 percent shooting from the field, one of the reasons Ryan was cutting down a net.
"Coach is such a great competitor," Badgers forward Sam Dekker said. "As players, we may not always agree with everything he does; he may say things you just don't understand, but as the end of the day it works. He's a winner.
"People say he never got to a Final Four. Well, here he is."
NOTES: Arizona coach Sean Miller's brother, Dayton coach Archie Miller, failed to advance to the Final Four when the 11th-seeded Flyers were ousted by No. 1 Florida 62-52 in the East Region on Saturday. ... This was the third meeting between Arizona and Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. The eighth-seeded Badgers upset the top-seeded Wildcats in the 2000 second round; Arizona won 94-75 in the 2006 first round. ... A magnitude 4.4 earthquake slightly rattled the Honda Center a few hours before the game. That came a night after a 5.1 earthquake hit the area. ... Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was assessed a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct during a first-half timeout. ... The all-tournament team from the West Regional: Wisconsin C Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin G Traevon Jackson, Arizona G Nick Johnson, Arizona F Aaron Gordon and San Diego State PG Xavier Thames.