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Wisconsin vs. Duke: Badgers fall just short in NCAA tournament championship

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- The stage was set and Wisconsin looked poised to take it. Leading by nine, the Badgers had drawn fouls on each of Duke's frontcourt stars, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor. But it wasn't to be, as Wisconsin ran into a buzz saw of Tyus Jones jumpers, falling to the Blue Devils by a final score of 68-63.

Wisconsin (36-4) managed to head to halftime tied with Duke (35-4) despite sloppy play throughout much of the opening half. The Badgers' frontcourt trio of Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes posted 23 of the Badgers' 31 points, with reserve forward Duje Dukan adding five.

As they have done throughout the tournament, the Badgers came out of halftime on runs of 7-2 and 6-0, taking a 48-39 lead with 13:17 remaining. The Blue Devils responded out of a timeout with a 6-0 run led by freshman guard Grayson Allen, who finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

From there, fellow freshman guard Tyus Jones took over. The Minnesota native struggled to get things going in the first half but scored 19 second-half points to finish with a game-high 23 on 7-of-13 from the field, hitting all seven of his free-throw attempts.

The Badgers were able to regain a 58-56 lead with 4:25 left, but Jones came down and hit a deep three at the other end that gave the Blue Devils a 59-58 lead they would not relinquish.

National player of the year Frank Kaminsky had another spectacular night for the Badgers, scoring 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting while also grabbing 12 rebounds. But junior Sam Dekker, the star of the tournament to this point, struggled to just 6-of-15, missing all six of his attempts from three-point range.

The Badgers finished with the most wins in school history at 36, but failing to get that 37th will no doubt sting for quite a while. This was one Wisconsin let slip away.