If you had told me that the Wisconsin Badgers would go seven minutes without a basket in the National Semi-Final game against unbeaten Kentucky I would have asked “How much did they lose by?” That’s exactly what happened but the Badgers scratched and clawed from behind and made the type of plays you’d expect from a veteran team in defeating the Wildcats 71-64.
While Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari was much more gracious in defeat than I had anticipated, a couple of his players went the inappropriate and sore loser route. In a comment that immediately blew up social media, Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison was heard on open microphone saying “F— that n—–” in a response to a teammate getting a question about Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.
Prior to this, which I’ll get back to in a second, Wildcats’ big man Willie Cauley-Stein walked off the court while most his teammates properly and respectfully shook hands with Wisconsin players. I understand he was upset but if you’re going to win 37 times and want respect and attention then lose the same way. Perhaps Cauley-Stein realized just how poor he played for a seven-footer who should have been dominating games. Two points and five rebounds? You want to point fingers Wildcats’ fans then I’d start right there.
As for Harrison, most white players would probably take his comment as a sign of respect these days which is sad commentary on where we are today with that word. Still, can you imagine if Kaminsky had said that about him?
There are plenty of people who want to celebrate the fact that the Badgers are a predominantly white team who beat an overwhelmingly black-dominated team. That’s pretty sad but you and I both know it’s true. Instead of looking at the color of the players, how about just realizing that Wisconsin is a damn good team that does what it does well?
I have no doubt that’s what Harrison’s comment was aimed at and I guarantee his frustration led to it. Unfortunately we live in a world where race and ethnicity will never be 100% accepted. That doesn’t mean we can’t do better though. Regardless, the Badgers did what 37 other opponents could not and now they have chance to win the school’s first national title since 1941.
Tit for Tat
A lot of Kentucky fans are still screaming today about the shot Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes made as the 35-second clock expired. There’s no question the ball had not left Hayes’ hand yet but under the rules a review was not available. Therefore the shot counted and the play continued.
First let me say how nice it is not to have review for everything in college basketball. These games are already painfully jammed with commercials and adding more stoppages would actually make it worse. That said, perhaps the missed call was a bit of retribution for the Badgers.
Earlier in the second half, Kentucky’s Trey Lyles cleared smacked Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser in the paint with an open hand to the side of Gasser’s face. The officials, who had been shaky all night, decided there was no foul. The fact the officials chose to call nothing is indicative of just how intimidated college officials are of these coaches and players.
This should have been at the very least a flagrant one and possibly a flagrant two and an ejection but nothing? Ultimately this is how basketball justice works if you believe in that sort of thing. The Hayes’ shot should have been called differently and so to should the Lyles’ smackdown.
Both situations are history now and so is the Kentucky run at an unbeaten season.