Elite Eight Rematch Between No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 2 Arizona
One of the best games of the 2014 NCAA Tournament was an Elite Eight showdown between No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 Wisconsin. The Badgers won that epic thriller to advance to the Final Four and it’s a rematch on Saturday night on TBS, this time with the Wildcats as the No. 2 seed and Badgers No. 1. Arizona opened as the 1.5-point Bovada favorite with a total of 133.5.
Badgers Rally Past Heels
Wisconsin (34-4) beat No. 4 North Carolina 79-72 in the Sweet 16. Sam Dekker had a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky added 19, and Nigel Hayes had 12. The teams shot exactly the same — 46 percent — for the game, but the Badgers improved to 58 percent in the second half and made 20 of 23 free throws to keep their hopes of a second straight Final Four berth alive.
Dekker scored 18 of his high 23 points in the paint on 9-of-9 shooting, the most attempts in the paint without a miss in an NCAA Tournament game since Duke’s Mason Plumlee went 9-of-9 in 2012 vs. Lehigh. As a team, Wisconsin outscored North Carolina 36-28 in the paint Thursday, tied for the Tar Heels’ second-worst paint differential this season. Dekker is the third player with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Roy Williams in the Sweet 16 or later, joining Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony. Dekker is averaging 20.0 PPG in three NCAA Tournament games after averaging 13.0 PPG prior to the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers also got great news in the return of former starting point guard Traveon Jackson after an 18-game absence due to injury. He scored four points.
Wildcats Didn’t Play Their Best
Arizona struggled past No. 6 Xavier 68-60 on Thursday. T.J. McConnell scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, and freshman Stanley Johnson added 12. Kaleb Tarczewski had 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Wildcats (34-3) weathered a major scare from the Musketeers (23-14) and clamped down defensively during a game-ending 19-7 run. The Musketeers went cold in the final nine minutes, making one of their final nine shots after shooting 50.0% during the first 31 minutes.
In the first half, Arizona starting forward Hollis-Jefferson went to the locker room with a knee injury. He quickly returned but rarely looked like the explosive player he’s been all season. With 8:29 to play, Hollis-Jefferson was just 1-for-3 for three points and zero rebounds.
The Badgers won last year’s game 64-63 in overtime. Kaminsky had 28 points, including six in overtime, and 11 rebounds as UW made its first Final Four appearance since 2000. The neck-and-neck game produced an almost symmetrical box score, but Arizona missed five free throws (12-for-17) while Wisconsin missed just two (10-for-12). Arizona guard Nick Johnson was called for a controversial offensive foul with four seconds to play. The Wildcats forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass, but Johnson couldn’t get a shot attempt off in time. Johnson led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Aaron Gordon had 18 rebounds in the relentlessly physical game. Those two are not on this year’s Arizona roster.
Arizona is the 6/1 second-favorite to win the NCAA title at Bovada and Wisconsin 8/1.
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