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Déjà blue: Wisconsin’s historic season ends in heartbreaking loss to Duke in national championship game

first_imgINDIANAPOLIS – The best season in Wisconsin men’s basketball history will end on the most disappointing of notes.Wisconsin, playing in the national championship game for just the second time in school history, was looking for its second national championship in program history Monday night against Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.But fate was not on the Badgers’ side Monday, as the Blue Devils ran away from the Badgers in the closing minutes of the game to win the title over Wisconsin, 68-63.“It’s a tough one. We had this game,” Wisconsin junior forward Sam Dekker said. “Congrats to Duke. I’m proud of our guys. I’m blessed to be on this team.“This one hurts. It hurts.”Wisconsin (36-4) had already set the program record for wins and was up by nine with 13 minutes and 25 seconds separating it from a magical finish to a historic season.But Duke (35-4), who knocked off Wisconsin at the Kohl Center earlier this season, had other plans and stormed back to tie the game at 54 a little over five minutes later.From there, Duke found its rhythm from the floor and after freshman guard Tyus Jones drained a 3-pointer with 4:08 to put the Blue Devils on top 59-58, Duke never trailed the rest of the way.Freshman and ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor scored four straight points for Duke after Jones’ three and the Blue Devils held a five-point advantage with 2:10 remaining in the game.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldJones, who finished with a game-high 21 points and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, followed a Wisconsin missed shot with another 3-pointer that put the Blue Devils up 66-58 and sent a dagger to the hopes of Wisconsin winning its second national championship and first in 74 years.A quick 5-0 run from Wisconsin – a Frank Kaminsky three and Nigel Hayes dunk – kept the Badgers’ hopes alive down three, 66-63, with 49 seconds left, but Jones hit two free throws that sealed the game for Duke and gave the Blue Devils their fifth national championship under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.“What a fantastic job these guys did all year,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “They just came together to do all the things that they accomplished.“It’s just unfortunate that this one had to be played out that way.”Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldAfter Wisconsin had gone up by nine earlier in the half, it went only 6-for-20 the rest of the game and 4-for-13 once Duke came back to tie the game at 54 with 7:04 remaining.Duke gained an advantage at the free-throw line in the second half, getting into the bonus with 11:43 remaining in the game. Duke began to attack the paint which forced Wisconsin into foul trouble and sent the Blue Devils to the free-throw line.Duke made 12 of its 16 free throw shots in the second half on some foul calls that had the Wisconsin players and Ryan visibly upset.“We still felt like we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, what coach preaches to us, sliding our feet, chest up, hands up and staying on the ground, but the calls weren’t going our way,” Hayes said. “We don’t want to blame any of that. We just didn’t play a good enough 40 minutes to win.”Dekker, who had been playing his basketball of the season during the tournament, struggled in the second half of Monday’s game, going only 2-of-6 from the floor, scoring four points. He finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds.Jason Chan/The Badger Herald“He was just was off with his outside shot,” Ryan said of Dekker. “We all would have like to have seen one or two of those go down, but they didn’t. And that happens in games. He hasn’t had very many of those, but it happens.”Duke freshman guard Grayson Allen played a large role in bringing the Blue Devils back into the game in the second half. During Duke’s 15-6 run after Wisconsin took a nine-point lead, Allen scored eight straight points for the Blue Devils, including a 3-pointer and an and-one. He finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting.Along with freshman forward Justice Winslow, the freshmen group of Allen, Okafor and Jones combined to score 60 of Duke’s 68 points Monday night.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldKaminsky led the Badgers with 21 points and 12 rebounds while both Hayes (13) and sophomore guard Bronson Koenig (10) finished in double figures for Wisconsin.Kaminsky and Dekker were named to the all-Final Four team for their efforts against both Duke and Kentucky.But the accolades for Dekker and the win over Kentucky on Saturday, won’t alleviate the pain from Monday’s heartbreaking loss anytime soon.“This one’s worse, man, because I knew what we had,” Dekker said, comparing Monday’s loss to last season’s Final Four loss to Kentucky. “I knew what we had coming back, that our group was going to make it to this point and this is what we wanted. We wanted to be in this game and win this game. Just came up short. That was a great ride we had.”Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldFor seniors Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan and Kaminsky, Monday’s game will be the last in their careers at Wisconsin. While ending on a disappointing note, this team – and the senior class – will always be able to recall the first consecutive trips to the Final Four in program history, the most wins in program history and playing in the national championship game for the first time in 74 years.“We had a heck of a season,” Gasser said. “The stuff we accomplished. Sometimes, life’s not fair. This is not the outcome we envisioned. We knew we were going to win; just didn’t happen. Duke is a great team, but just didn’t do it.”last_img read more

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