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Badgers work overtime, secure Final Four for Bo Ryan

To the victors...Nigel Hayes cuts down his strand of the net after Wisconsin defeats Arizona, 64-63, Saturday night.
To the victors...Nigel Hayes cuts down his strand of the net after Wisconsin defeats Arizona, 64-63, Saturday night.
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If Bo Ryan has a bucket list, he can scratch off a huge item after Saturday night.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan (left) gets congratulations from his AD, Barry Alvarez, after his team beat Arizona, 64-63, in overtime to advance to the NCAA Final Four.
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That’s because his Wisconsin Badgers basketball team battled their way to earn his first trip to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

Bucky battled the No. 1 seeded Arizona Wildcats nose-to-nose for 45 minutes at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

In what will surely become an instant classic in Wisconsin sports lore, the Badgers hung on for a gritty, 64-63, overtime victory.

It is the first Final Four appearance for Wisconsin since 2000 when Dick Bennett was at the helm.

Ryan has been steering the men from Mad City for 13 years, earning a spot in this tournament in all of them.

In the end, it came down to one stop.

With 2.3 seconds left in the extra session -- after a replay reversal of possession on a ball tipped out of of bounds -- Wisconsin’s ‘D’ came up stout.

Wildcat guard Nick Johnson was forced to take an extra dribble and his jumper to win it launched after the buzzer sounded.

Wisconsin trailed by eight a couple of times in the first stanza, but kept it close throughout most of the evening.

“I’m so proud of ‘em,” Ryan said after the game. “It’s those guys in the red shirts. They’re the ones that did it.”

Ryan said it’s “going to be tough” coaching in the Final Four without his dad, Butch, who recently passed away.

The Badgers took their first lead, 36-34, with 15:10 left in regulation.

They did it with the same precision passing and disciplined, cool-headed play that has been their trademark throughout the season.

In a word, Wisconsin was awesome.

In two words, Frank Kaminsky.

The seven-footer was simply unstoppable.

Kaminsky converted putbacks.

And tip-ins.

And he was deadly (3 of 4) from beyond the arc.

Kaminsky ended up with 28 points (11 of 20) and 11 rebounds.

The Wildcats tried matching him with their seven-footer, Kaleb Tarczewski, but when Kaminsky drained two three-pointers in the second half, they switched to the quicker Aaron Gordon.

No matter.

Kaminsky just used his size to get inside, nailing no-footers and finishing off lobs and the missed shots of his teammates.

“We gave it everything we had…we’re all exhausted,” Kaminsky said afterwards.

“We fought through, we played with toughness and got the win.”

Johnson led Arizona with 16 points while Tarczewski chipped in with 12.

Gordon was on the quiet side offensively (8 pts.) but led both teams with 18 caroms.

The Badgers will face the Kentucky Wildcats, who used the three-ball down the stretch to defeat the more familiar Michigan.

March Madness gives way to April insanity and the tournament moves to AT&T Stadium in North Texas.

That’s the famous shrine to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the site of the Green Bay Packers win in Super Bowl XLV.

Expect Packer QB Aaron Rodgers to make another appearance. His locker room visit obviously paid dividends last time around.

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