LOS ANGELES – Just call him Sam Dagger.
Sam Dekker hit 5 of Wisconsin’s 10 3-pointers in the second half on his way to a second straight career high of 27 points, Frank Kaminsky added 29 points and the top-seeded Badgers beat No. 2 Arizona 85-78 on Saturday to reach consecutive Final Fours for the first time in school history.
The Wildcats twice got within five points in the last 2 1/2 minutes, but both times Dekker connected on arcing 3-pointers, narrowly beating the shot clock on the first one.
“Sam Dekker pretty much just crushed our dreams with that shot,” Arizona guard T.J. McConnell said.
Dekker confirmed the Badgers are more than just “Frank the Tank.” The junior followed up his career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds in a semifinal win over North Carolina with timely shooting that bailed out the Badgers.
“Incredible game,” tweeted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from his seat behind the Badgers’ bench, calling Dekker “cold-blooded.”
Wisconsin (35-3) denied the Wildcats (34-4) a Final Four berth for the second straight year, having beaten them by one point in overtime in Anaheim, California, a year ago when their seeds were reversed.
“That loss left a sour taste in our mouth, so we wanted to get back,” Dekker said of last season’s 1-point loss to Kentucky in the national semifinals. “As a team we set some goals of what we wanted to do, and now we’re two games away from our last goal.”
The Badgers and 67-year-old coach Bo Ryan head to Indianapolis next week for another shot at undefeated Kentucky, which barely beat Notre Dame 68-66 in the Midwest Regional final.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Ryan said. “They’re a tough bunch, and I hope they don’t change.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley scored 17 points each for the Wildcats. McConnell added 14 points in his college finale and Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York scored 11 points apiece.
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