Wisconsin gets revenge, ruins Kentucky’s historic season

April 05 23:08 2015

Whenever someone would describe Kentucky as perfect these last few weeks, John Calipari was quick to correct them. His team wasn’t perfect, he would say, just unbeaten. The Wildcats’ quest for perfection ended a game short of a shot at the national championship Saturday night, stopped cold by a Wisconsin team with a long memory and even better long-range shooting. Tied at 60 with fewer than two minutes to play, Sam “Dagger” Dekker drilled a three-pointer and then forced a Kentucky turnover at the other end by taking a charge.635637867313057680-USP-NCAA-BASKETBALL-FINAL-FOUR-WISCONSIN-VS-KENTU-72110906

When Karl-Anthony Towns missed the second of two free throws, which would have pulled the Wildcats within one with 16 seconds left, player of the year Frank Kaminsky got the rebound and all that was left was the fouling . The final score was 71-64, the record 38-and-no. “It takes everything away,” Tyler Ulis said. “All the wins mean nothing.”

Calipari tried to spin a different narrative, saying the loss shouldn’t detract from everything his players accomplished this season. It wasn’t just the 38 games without a loss. It was the way this dazzling array of stars had bought into the team concept, willingly sacrificing minutes and points for the collective good. “They took us on an absolute ride as a coach, our staff, this university, our state. You’re not going to take it away,” Calipari said. “They’re hurting right now, but when they look back on this time … incredible stuff.”

He is right, of course. But history is a heartless judge, with no love for almosts or close calls. That 1991 UNLV team isn’t remembered for the 34 wins that started the season, it’s remembered for the one that ended it. And so it will be for Kentucky. Five years from now, no one but Kentucky fans will remember the Wildcats’ unselfishness. Or their stingy defense. The maturity and grace with which the players handled the ever-shrinking fishbowl they found themselves in will be appreciated by few besides them and their families.