Wisconsin’s offense had consistently been able to find a way to pull out victories during close games this season, but its offense couldn’t make the same kind of plays they’ve been known to make in these types of situations.
In the final 10 minutes, 10 seconds, Wisconsin’s offense went 5-for-18 from the field, at one point missing five shots in a row between the 9:18 mark and the 5:08 mark and missing four in a row from 3:37 to 1:24. The latter stretch, combined with Duke getting momentum on its side, saw the game go from a tie at 58 to the Badgers down eight.
“That’s why Duke is a good team, they don’t give stuff to you, they pressure you, they have long athletes that get into you, use their hands, they’re good at it,” senior Josh Gasser said. “For the most part we did a good job but couldn’t quite get over the hump.”The end of the game was a stark contrast to how the second half started. Wisconsin scored on its first three offensive possessions and shot 8-for-12 from the field in the first 9:50.
“They didn’t make an adjustment; we followed the game plan,” said sophomore Nigel Hayes. “We were giving the ball to the player of the year and letting him work down low. He was getting double teamed and harassed. I don’t know if he was getting fouled. I don’t want to say that or blame anybody … Kaminsky tried to attack the basket and get fouls and make shots. It just didn’t happen.”
Wisconsin was able to find ways of getting Frank Kaminsky the ball throughout the game, which also opened up opportunities for his teammates to attack the rim. Wisconsin finished the game with 32 points in the paint, but couldn’t finish around the basket down the stretch. With Duke making plays on the offensive side, Wisconsin was forced to shoot perimeter jumpers. UW missed 5 of its 6 3-point attempts over the final 10:10 and finished the game 7-for-21 (33.3 percent) from three.
Overall Wisconsin shot 25-for-61 (41 percent) from the field and put four players into double figures. Kaminsky led Wisconsin with 21 points on 7-for-16 shooting in 39 minutes of work. Hayes was second with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, Sam Dekker had 12 points and Bronson Koenig scored 10 points in 31 minutes.
Struggling with guards who can drive the basketball had been an issue for Wisconsin this year and it popped up again in game number 40. Duke’s backcourt took advantage of Wisconsin’s defense as freshman Tyus Jones - Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four- led Duke with 23 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field.
Jones had similar success against Wisconsin in Madison (22 points on Dec.3), but Wisconsin had no answer for Grayson Allen, who scored 16 of Duke’s 18 points off the bench. In the first five games of the NCAA tournament, Allen has a combined 18 points, but he was able to follow Jones’ lead and attack the middle of UW’s defense. He finished the game 5-for-8 from the field and was able to consistently get to the free throw line for 3-point plays.
“I’m not going to say one sided, but it did get a little chaotic, literally every time down the floor there was a whistle blown,” Dekker said as Wisconsin was called for 13 personal fouls in the second half. “I was thinking, come on, let’s play some basketball here. It’s tough to get into a rhythm and keep going, that type of thing. Can’t blame anyone. It’s on us, guess we didn’t do enough.”
Duke getting to the free throw line proved to play a huge role in the momentum swing, as the Blue Devils went 12-for-16 in the second half and 16-for-20 in the game. Jones and Allen combined to go 12-for-12 from the free throw line in the game and a combined 10-for-10 in the second half.
“It’s tough to stop them when they’re setting hard screens like that and you’re doing everything you can to show your hand,” said Koenig. “They throw something up and they call a foul. It’s pretty tough to defend that.”
With Duke finding ways of attacking the rim, they were able to finish the game with 32 points in the paint. Although Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor each scored in double figures, finishing the game with 11 and 10 points, respectively, it was the backcourt for Duke that was able open the paint. As a team Duke finished 24-for-51 (47.1 percent) from the field.
“We really don’t blame anyone, we didn’t play good enough defense to contain their drive to the rim,” Hayes said. “That’s what Duke prides themselves on, getting inside, and we just have to do a better job.”
Wisconsin’s defense could only force Duke into five turnovers, three of which came off Wisconsin steals. What hurt Wisconsin was they couldn’t take advantage of the limited miscues, finishing the game with seven points, only two of which came in the second half.
It was a game of runs between the two teams in second half. Wisconsin was able to get the first run and build a lead as big as nine, but Duke, as expected, kept chipping away and Wisconsin didn’t do enough in its power to continue to grow their lead.“There’s just a lot of plays in the game and it was very physical, had to push it mentally to finish those shots and we were unable to do so today,” said senior Traevon Jackson, who scored two points off the bench. “They (Duke) kept coming together and they were able to do somethings we weren’t able to do.”
“We still felt like for the most part we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, just defensively it wasn’t going our way,” Hayes added. “Offensively the ball didn’t bounce our way this game. That’s just something will have to learn and work on and get better defensively.”
Wisconsin was able to win the rebounding battle 35-33, and crashed the offensive glass with 11 rebounds. But eight of the 11 came in the first half, as Duke was able to neutralize Wisconsin’s frontcourt from getting second chances in the second half. Wisconsin could only finish the game with 13 points off of its second chance opportunities.
Duke certainly applied the pressure on Wisconsin’s offense at times, and while the Badgers committed only five turnovers, Duke was able to turn the miscues into nine points.
“All you can ask for is an opportunity and shot, we had it we just didn’t get it done,” Gasser said. “We played a good team, a well-coached team; life’s just not fair sometimes.”
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Named to the All-Final Four team along with Dekker, Kaminsky tried to do everything in his power to help Wisconsin win its second national championship, but it wasn’t meant to be. Kaminsky was able to get his shots in the critical moments of the game but they weren’t able to fall like that have in so many games this season.
Kaminsky had a game-high 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double this season, adding two assists, one block and one steal. He became the first player since Syracuse’s Carmelo Anthony (2003) to have back-to-back double-doubles in the Final Four.
The senior finished with 732 points, besting Alando Tucker’s mark of 716 set in 2006-07 and concluding his career with 1,458 points, ninth most on UW’s career scoring list.