ANAHEIM, Calif. — Every big shot Wisconsin needed, Frank Kaminsky hit.
The 7-footer carried Wisconsin to the Final Four with 28 points, including six in overtime, as the Badgers defeated Arizona 64-63 in a physical West Region final Saturday night.
Kaminsky had 11 rebounds and scored from inside and outside, including three three-pointers, for the No. 2 seed Badgers (30-7). It’s Wisconsin’s first Final Four appearance since 2000, and the first for 69-year-old coach Bo Ryan, who earned his 704th career win.
“We want a national championship now,” Kaminsky said. “We have made it to the opportunity to get there, so why not go get it?”
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Ryan had a long tradition of attending the Final Four as a spectator with his father, who died in August.
“Today would have been my dad’s 90th birthday,” he said. “I just thought I’d throw that in.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers joined the locker-room celebration, telling the Badgers he’d been following them all season.
Kaminsky proved the only reliable scorer on a night when the rest of the Badgers disappeared offensively. Sam Dekker was 2 for 5, Ben Brust went 2 for 7, Traevon Jackson was 4 of 14 and Nigel Hayes was 2 of 8.
“Their big guy really had a great game,” Arizona’s Nick Johnson said. “He raised his level.”
Johnson had the ball with a chance to win, but he missed a shot that was launched just after the buzzer for Arizona (33-5), the top-seeded team that has yet to win a West Region final in Anaheim in four tries. Johnson led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Aaron Gordon had 18 rebounds in the relentlessly physical game.
Johnson stood with his hands on his hips, staring straight ahead, while Kaminsky and the rest of the Badgers rushed to celebrate.
“I wish I would have taken one less dribble, get the shot off, give us a little chance,” Johnson said.
Jackson added 10 points for the Badgers, and Kaminsky was chosen as most outstanding player of the West Region, part of a breakout season for the junior with the deadpan sense of humor.
“They tell me he’s funnier than he used to be, and his eyes are more wide open now,” Ryan said. “If you see him sitting sometimes you think, ‘Oh, look, Frank’s asleep.’ He’s not asleep. But he’s got that sleepy look.”
Kaleb Tarczewski scored 12 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 points for the Wildcats, who were trying to get coach Sean Miller to the Final Four for his first time. Instead, Miller was sent to the sideline on the same day his younger brother Archie’s Dayton Flyers lost to Florida in the South Region final.
“When you lose, it’s like a car crashes,” Miller said. “It’s just — you’re done.”