ANAHEIM, Calif. — Arizona vs. Wisconsin was the only No .1 seed vs. No. 2 seed matchup in the NCAA regional finals, and it turned out be more like No.1 vs. No.1A.
Two tenacious defenses made almost every possession a prolonged battle, a struggle to even identify something resembling a good shot, much less make one.
Top-seeded Arizona had the edge most of the first half, then it went back and forth until the end.
As crunch time approached, Wisconsin looked to 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky, who delivered inside and at the three-point line and finished with a game-high 28 points.
Arizona looked to guard Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 player of the year who started his last game zero for 10 from the field but was more reliable in this one, leading the Wildcats with 16 points.
Fittingly, it went to overtime, tied at 54.
And fittingly, the game was decided on two defensive stops.
Johnson, guarded tightly by Josh Gasser, was called for an offensive foul on a drive in the final seconds with Arizona trailing 64-63.
Wisconsin called timeout, but the ball went out of bounds on the inbounds play and, after a long review, Arizona was awarded the ball with 2.3 seconds left.
Johnson ended up taking a desperation fall-away jumper that missed — though officials likely would have waved it off anyway — and Wisconsin won 64-63.
Ryan, in his 13th consecutive NCAA tournament since being hired at Wisconsin, has finally reached the Final Four.
Arizona coach Sean Miller failed to reach his first Final Four, as did his brother, Archie, the coach at Dayton, which lost earlier in the day to Florida.
"Frank Kaminsky is the reason they're going to the Final Four," Sean Miller said.
Arizona had a seven-point lead early in the game and an eight-point lead 12 minutes into the game but could not get a sustained run against the gritty Badgers.
Then, early in the second half, the ball started rolling Wisconsin's way, and Kaminsky and freshman guard Bronson Koenig hit big shots to help the Badgers build a five-point lead.
Arizona came right back and at the 11:06 mark, the score was tied at 41. At that point, Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon, one of the tournament's breakout stars, was zero for seven from the field, with one point and 13 rebounds.
Gordon rallied with a three-pointer and an offensive rebound dunk in overtime and finished with eight points and 18 rebounds.
Arizona led 28-25 at the half after leading much of the half by more than that.
The Wildcats led 22-14 after making three of four free throws after a shooting foul on Wisconsin and a technical foul on Badgers coach Bo Ryan, who was visibly unhappy with disparity of free throws in the first half – 11 for Arizona, four for Wisconsin.
Kaminsky, who ruined Baylor's defense with his clever inside game Thursday night, took a while to get going against Arizona as the Badgers fell behind by seven points early. His first points came almost seven minutes into the game, but he then got a three-pointer to get Wisconsin within two points.
Conversely, Arizona 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski, who got into foul trouble and had a bad game against San Diego State, got off to a quick start, making his first three shots and scoring six points in the first nine minutes. But he was pretty quiet after that, finishing with 12 points.