INDIANAPOLIS -- Kentucky's perfect season came to a close as Wisconsin avenged its lost in last season's national semifinal with a 71-64 win over the previously undefeated Wildcats Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After finding themselves in a quick 5-0 hole, the Badgers (36-3) responded and took a 23-14 lead with 9:15 left in the first half. Kentucky (38-1) responded with a run of its own, regaining the lead with a Trey Lyles dunk during the final minute of the first half. But sophomore Bronson Koenig answered for the Badgers, sending the teams to the locker room tied at 36.
Wisconsin stayed hot after the halftime break, scoring 16 points on its first eight possessions to take a 52-44 lead with 14:41 left in the game. Again, Kentucky responded, this time with a 16-4 run that gave the Wildcats a 60-56 lead with 6:36 remaining.
The Badgers, looking very much like they were about to run out of gas, slowed the pace enough to muster a four-point spurt that tied the score at 60-60 with 2:38 remaining. After another Wildcats miss, Wisconsin junior Sam Dekker, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, drained a deep three that gave Wisconsin a lead it would never relinquish.
Wisconsin won despite allowing Kentucky to shoot 48 percent from the field and despite turning the ball over an uncharacteristically-high 10 times. But Wisconsin was able to neutralize Kentucky's advantage on the glass for most of the night, out-rebounding the Wildcats 34-22 and outscoring them 13-6 on second-chance points.
National player of the year Frank Kaminsky, who struggled in last year's Final Four defeat, led the way for the Badgers with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and played arguably his best game of the season defensively.
Having already faced three rematches in the NCAA tournament, the Badgers now have to overcome a fourth as they will face South Region champion Duke for the national title on Monday. The Blue Devils (34-4) beat Wisconsin 80-70 in Madison on Dec. 3. However, Dekker was limited severely by an ankle injury in that game and his presence will certainly affect Monday's outcome.
Tip time is set for just after 8 p.m. CT Monday.