Wisconsin Badgers Fall in 2015 National Championship Game


The Wisconsin Badgers let one slip away Monday night.

Unfortunately, it was for a National Championship.

The Duke Blue Devils walked away from Indianapolis the National Champions, earning a 68-63 victory over the Badgers. A 9-point second-half Wisconsin lead evaporated quickly, as a pair of young players brought Duke back from the brink.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

A Duke team loaded with potential first round draft picks was led by a huge second half performance from freshman Grayson Allen, who scored 16 points – 10 in the second half – and another big game out of freshman Tyus Jones, who led all scorers with 23 points.

Both Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow struggled with foul trouble, scoring 10 and 11 points, respectively, but neither was missed as the freshman guards led Duke through the second half.

In the loss, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky led the team with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Nigel Hayes scored 13, Sam Dekker added 12, and Bronson Koenig scored 10.

A 31-31 halftime tie saw the Badgers shooting just 38.7 percent but committing just 2 fouls, while Duke shot 50 percent from the field, but committed 7 fouls, including two big ones on both Okafor and Winslow. It was a back-and-forth half, with 13 total lead changes.

The Badgers got a big lift off the bench from senior Duje Dukan, who had five big points for the Badgers when the team was struggling. Meanwhile, Duke got 7 points out of Okafor despite an early trip to the bench with foul trouble. Winslow and Quinn Cook added 6 points each in the half, and Jones scored 4.

The Badgers opened the second half on a 7-2 run, but Duke hung around despite both Winslow and Okafor picking up early third fouls. That’s when Allen and Jones stepped up, and gave Duke the lead late. Wisconsin continued to struggle to score, while Duke took advantage of 13 second half Badgers fouls, and hit big shots down the line to seal the victory.

Wisconsin shot just 41.0 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three, and only attempted 10 free throws (6 makes). Duke shot 47.1 percent from the field, and hit 16-of-20 free throws.

The Badgers finish the season 36-4, two of the losses coming at the hands of Duke.

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Game recap

Jitters were evident early, as with about 11 to play in the first, Wisconsin had committed three turnovers and were shooting just 4-11 as they trailed 15-12.

The Badgers, though, got a lift from Duje Dukan off the bench, as the senior knocked down a three then tip-slammed a Dekker miss home for another two.

Duke built up a slim leading, getting out ahead 21-16. After a Koenig free throw pulled it to 21-17, Hayes took the ball straight at Winslow, forcing his second foul of the game as the under-eight timeout rolled around. Hayes missed both freebies, and Duke capitalized on the other end to go up 23-17.

The Badgers shooting struggles continued until a Traevon Jackson three-pointer rimmed out and Dekker collected the miss and put it back for two. Kaminsky picked Okafor’s pocket on the next play, and Jackson took it up the court for a layup to pull the Badgers within two. After a Duke miss, Kaminsky took it at Okafor, drew a foul (Okafor’s second) and completed the three-point play, putting Wisconsin up 24-23.

With Okafor on the bench and Winslow playing with two fouls, the teams traded baskets until a Hayes three-pointer put Wisconsin up 31-29 with a minute and a half to play. Amile Jefferson scored to tie it at 31-31 with a minute to play, and the score held to the half.

Koenig drilled a three out of the break, and after Winslow answered with a layup, Kaminsky and Dekker scored back-to back layups to give Wisconsin a 38-33 lead on a 7-2 run, forcing a Coach K timeout with only a minute and a half gone in the second half.

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  • Minutes later, Kaminsky forced Okafor’s third foul and knocked down a pair of free throws in the process. Duke hung strong, and with four gone in the half trailed the Badgers 42-39.

    Koenig drove for a contested layup, then buried a deep two on the next possession to put the Badgers up 46-39. Winslow picked up his third foul on the next trip down the court, and Kaminsky scored to put the Badgers up 48-39, forcing another Coach K TO.

    Duke answered with a trey from Allen, who knocked down and and-1 on the following possession, but Hayes hit a three of his own to push the lead back to 6 points, 51-45. Another two Allen free throws closed the gap, and a Jones and-1 closed it to a 1-point, 51-50 with about 10 to play.

    Moments later, Kaminsky took it straight at Okafor, drew his fourth foul, and completed the three-point play. Leading Duke 54-52 with under eight minutes to go, Dukan picked up his fourth foul as Jones took a charge. Jones tied the game at 54-54 out of the break with a deep jumper.

    As the under four timeout came, the Badgers found themselves down 59-58, thanks largely to the shooting of Allen and Jones, who continued their stellar play. Okafor put Duke up 61-58 with a layup, then Duke forced a shot clock violation as the clock ticked to 2:39.

    Okafor collected an offensive rebound and put Duke up five with just over two to play, and after a Badgers miss, a close call out-of-bounds play went Duke’s way, despite a replay and pretty clear video evidence of Winslow touching the ball. As the clocked neared one minute left, Jones buried a deep three, putting Duke up 66-58.

    Kaminsky answered with a three of his own, making it 66-61. The Badgers stuffed a Duke fast break opportunity, and Hayes slammed one home on the other end, making it a three-point game – 66-63 – with 42.2 on the clock.

    Hayes was forced to foul Jones on the next possession, and the freshman hit two of two, making it 68-63. With 20 seconds left, Koenig came up short on a deep jumper, and the Badger were forced to foul again. Although Winslow missed both free throws, with the clock ticking away the Badgers couldn’t find the bottom of the net, and Duke held on for the win.

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