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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Recap: Arizona ends season with Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin for second straight year

Rebecca Noble

Arizona guard TJ McConnell (4) walks off the court for the last time in his Arizona basketball career to hug coach Sean Miller after Arizona’s heartbreaking 85-78 loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on Saturday evening.

LOS ANGELES—For the second consecutive season, Arizona (34-4) lost to Wisconsin (35-3) in the Elite Eight to end its season. This season’s game ended 85-78 in favor of the Badgers in Staples Center.

Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell scored 14 points and dished out five assists in his final game as a Wildcat. He was subbed out with nine seconds remaining on Saturday and took an emotional walk down the bench, talking to each coach before talking to his teammates.

McConnell spent the longest time with Arizona coach Sean Miller and said he thinks of him as a second father figure.

“Knowing I would never play for coach Miller again finally hit me and it was emotional,” McConnell said.

Arizona led Wisconsin 33-30 at halftime after the defense picked up over the second portion of the first half. The Wildcats climbed back from a 10-2 deficit to open the game and looked to be in control.

However, Wisconsin came out of the halftime break firing on all cylinders.

The Badgers started the half on a dominant 11-1 run that completely opened up the game. Wisconsin would end up going 10-12 from beyond the arc in the second half alone to secure the team’s second straight Final Four appearance.

“From my perspective, I give tremendous credit to Wisconsin,” Miller said. “Their offensive execution and their ability to make shots in the second half ― it was like a video game. I’d like to blame our players or we weren’t playing hard. Let me just tell you: Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, they’re really good.”

Arizona was in foul trouble right from the start, as forward Brandon Ashley picked up two fouls in the first 1:21 of gameplay. Ashley ended up with four fouls but was still effective, scoring a team-high 17 points to go along with four rebounds.

Four Arizona starters finished with at least four fouls, with forwards Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fouling out.

Hollis-Jefferson finished with 17 points and eight rebounds and kept Arizona in the game with his defense on Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky. Johnson put up just six points and was not the same after he suffered a scratch on his eye while going for a rebound.

“God works in mysterious ways, and I’m a god-fearing man so it wasn’t our time today,” Johnson said. “I’ve never been hit in the eye like that before, and I thought I was doing a really good job on [Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker]. He probably had five or six points on me, mostly free throws, no threes. When I had to go out for as long as I did, [I] really couldn’t see the ball until I got fouled out of the game.”

Kamisky and Dekker were just too much for Arizona to handle in the second half.

Dekker scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half alone and went 5-6 from the 3-point line. Kaminsky controlled the paint, drawing fouls everywhere en route to 29 points and six rebounds.

The two combined to score 56 of Wisconsin’s 85 points. Add in Sam Gasser’s 10 points and that trio scored 78 percent of Wisconsin’s points.

For as solid as Wisconsin’s scoring trio was, the Wildcats were still in the game late. Arizona cut the margin to 76-71 with 2:21 left in the game.

However, as they did all second half, shots continued to fall in from deep for the Badgers.

“If you would have told me that we would play the game with 10 turnovers, that we would have one more rebound than them, that we would go 28-30 from the foul line and shoot 56% from the floor, I would tell you that we were going to win. But their second half offense was spectacular, extraordinary, and they deserve the credit for that.”

Arizona will for sure lose McConnell, forward Matt Korcheck and walk-on forward Drew Mellon. There is speculation the rest of the starting five will leave early for the NBA, but the players aren’t worried about that at this point.

“It sucks knowing you’ll never play with these guys again,” McConnell said. “So … we’re all brothers and it’s tough to be over.”

McConnell also thanked the Arizona fanbase for their support during his time as a Wildcat.

“They’re the best fans in the country, and I’m going to miss them more than anything,” McConnell said as he began to tear up. “And I love them.”


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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