Sparking the Finish

After No.3 Indiana made its run to tie the game with 12:51 to go, No.22 Wisconsin needed a spark to make its first tournament final since 2008. They got that off the bench, as freshman Sam Dekker's personal 7-0 run was the spark the Badgers needed Saturday.

CHICAGO - As reporters approached him following Wisconsin's quarterfinals win over No.6 Michigan, freshman Sam Dekker was taken aback.

"What do you want to talk to me for?" Dekker questioned. "I didn't do much."

Dekker was right, as his 0-for-4 shooting performance and two points didn't do much to grab the headlines. Twenty-four hours later, Dekker was prepared for questions after his play pushed No.22 Wisconsin into its first Big Ten Tournament final since 2008.

"He's that fearless young kid who doesn't care, and that's sometimes what you need," said junior Ben Brust of Dekker, whose 11 points were critical in the Badgers' 68-56 victory over No.3 Indiana Saturday afternoon at the United Center.

"He's instant offense. He can go on runs by himself within a snap of a finger."

In the days leading up to the tournament, Dekker expressed his disappointment of not being named the conference's sixth man of the year. Scoring in double figures in seven of UW's last eight games, Dekker was averaging 12.6 points and 3.4 rebounds over the span, shooting 53.3 percent from the field 44.1 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the free throw line.

He was the Big Ten scoring leader among nonstarters, but Dekker understood that his defense held him back at times. Not in the case Saturday, as Dekker committed zero fouls in 20 minutes on the floor.

"He played like a man," said senior Mike Bruesewitz. "He played like a silent assassin who was not silent today."

After missing seven of his first eight shots in the tournament, Dekker's presence came late in the second half after Indiana scored the first 10 points of a 13-2 run to tie the score at 43. It started when he delivered a coast-to-coast layup while drawing the foul to put the Badgers back in the lead.

Although he missed the ensuing free throw, Dekker drilled a 3-pointer thanks for Frank Kaminsky's offensive rebound. Kaminsky wasn't done helping, as his steal set up Dekker's thunderous dunk off a Traevon Jackson pass to cap a personal 7-0 run. Indiana never led after that.

"Sam is one of those guys (that) once he gets hot, you got to keep giving him the ball," said Jackson. "That's great to have a guy to be able to (play) like that, as talented as he is, and provide a spark. That's not the first time he's done that."

That patience helped Dekker find driving lanes, attack the basket following open catches on the perimeter and stay on the aggressive by attacking the basket instead of settling for jump shots.

"That's s a sign of good player that they can be patient, not force things and slow the game down to their pace," said Dekker. "That just comes from being around the game my whole life. It's something you have to do if you want to be successful.

"I didn't play well yesterday. I never really got in a flow. Today I just let the game come to me."

In 33 games, Dekker has scored in double figures 19 times, including 12 times in conference play. He'll go for lucky number 13 in the conference championship game Sunday afternoon.

"Sam has been phenomenal offensively throughout the year," said senior Ryan Evans. "Defensively he's coming along and fitting in perfectly with us. That's where you develop the most. The lift today he gave us was huge … He gave us the boost to keep moving forward."

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