Surrounded by reporters and TV cameras, Sam Dekker reclined in the noisy Wisconsin locker room and tried to capture the difficulty of UW's latest victory, arguably its most memorable of the season. "That was the toughest test we've had all year, the toughest fight we've had," Dekker said after UW's 64-63 overtime victory over No. 1-seeded Arizona in the West Regional title game Saturday night in the Honda Center. "It was blow after blow." When Nick Johnson failed to get off a shot before the final buzzer, No 2-seeded UW (30-7) was headed to the Final Four in Arlington, Texas. UW plays at 7:49 p.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against Kentucky (28-10), the No. 8-seeded team in the Midwest. Connecticut, which beat Michigan State Sunday, plays Florida in the first semifinal at 5:09 p.m. The Wildcats, who ousted previously unbeaten and top-seeded Wichita State in the third round and eliminated 2013 champion Louisville in the Sweet 16, handed No. 2-seeded Michigan a 75-72 loss Sunday on freshman Aaron Harrison's three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left. Kentucky became the first team since Michigan in 1992 to reach the Final Four with an all-freshman starting lineup. "We're just a group of tough, young guys, doesn't matter about the age or anything anymore," said Harrison, who hit 4 of 6 three-pointers for 12 points. "We just try to go out and fight and keep our heads down and swing the whole game." UW and Kentucky last met in the 2003 Sweet 16 in Minneapolis. The top-seeded Wildcats got 28 points from Marquis Estill in a 63-57 victory over UW. Tubby Smith led Kentucky's program then. John Calipari is in charge now and he has led the Wildcats to the Final Four three times in four seasons, with a title in 2012. UW, which battled Arizona for 45 minutes, will have to be at its best against Kentucky. The Wildcats' starters range from 6-foot-6 to 7-0; Calipari has more size and length on the bench; and four players average 11.0 points or better, led by forward Julius Randle (15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg). "Unbelievable gritty effort," UW associate head coach Greg Gard said after the victory over Arizona. "We beat a heck of a team. "For a team that has had to mature a lot defensively over the year and maybe hasn't in some instances been up to par, how about a championship game coming down to having to get a stop with 2.3 seconds to go?" Josh Gasser chased Johnson around a double screen off the in-bound. Traevon Jackson switched out on Johnson as he dribbled from right to left and Frank Kaminsky was waiting in the lane. Jackson made Johnson take one too many dribbles. "Well, I knew he was going to drive, and I'm so thankful that Frank was back," he said. "Frank was sitting there at the rim helping, because I didn't want to foul him or touch him at all. I didn't want to give the ref a chance. "He kind of beat me, and once Frank stepped up ... That's why I think he didn't get the shot off. "Once I saw the buzzer go off and the ball still in his hands, I just knew it was over from there."
Tested to the limit, Wisconsin ready for more
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Apr 1