Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) shoots a three against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Division I Championship semi-final game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
(Reuters) – The Wisconsin Badgers stunned previously undefeated Kentucky 71-64 in a tense Final Four triumph on Saturday to advance to the U.S. collegiate national championship game against Duke.
“Best birthday present I’ve ever had,” said a celebrating Frank Kaminsky, who sparked the Badgers’ victory with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Kentucky had entered the game with a 38-0 record and were attempting to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to top off a perfect season with a championship.
But the underdog Badgers used a late comeback to set up their title matchup on Monday against Duke, which crushed Michigan State 81-61 in Saturday’s other Final Four game in Indianapolis.
Sam Dekker, who had 16 points, hit a three-pointer for Wisconsin with less than two minutes to play to break a 60-60 tie and the Badgers never trailed again, clinching the win at the free throw line.
Kari-Anthony Towns led the Kentucky with 16 but the Wildcats were uncharacteristically dominated inside where Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 34-22.
Wisconsin will be going for their first national championship since 1941.
They lost to Duke earlier this season in a regular season clash.
Justise Winslow scored 19 points, Jahlil Okafor added 18 as the Blue Devils flexed their offense against Michigan State.
The victory put Duke in the collegiate championship game for the ninth time under coach Mike Krzyzewski, who won national titles in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010.
Krzyzewski, the winningest coach in college basketball’s top level, also has coached the U.S. Olympic team to two gold medals, most recently at the 2012 London Games.
Duke took control late in the first half after trailing by eight points early. They led 36-25 at halftime before racing to a 20-point advantage in the second half.
Denzel Valentine Jr. scored a game-high 22 points for Michigan State.