Published May 02, 2016
Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Wisconsin found itself in a familiar position.
Once again, the unflappable Badgers didn't panic.
Sam Dekker wouldn't allow them to.
Dekker had a career-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds and Wisconsin advanced to the West Regional final for a second straight year with a 79-72 win over North Carolina.
Frank Kaminsky netted 15 of his 19 points in the second half and added eight rebounds for top-seeded Wisconsin (34-3), which will face Arizona in a rematch of last year's Elite Eight. The Badgers edged the Wildcats 64-63 in overtime.
"I just tried to stay on attack mode. My shot wasn't falling like I'd like it to be, so I just tried to take it to the lane more and get some easy buckets and just cause a difference in there," Dekker said.
The Badgers, who trailed by at least seven points in each of their three wins during the Big Ten Tournament, found themselves down by as many as that midway through the second half in this one.
It was 60-56 in favor of UNC with 7:09 left before Wisconsin flipped the switch and outscored the Tar Heels 23-12 the rest of the way.
Marcus Paige sandwiched a pair of right-wing 3-pointers around a Dekker driving layup to cut the Tar Heels' deficit to 71-70 with 55 seconds left, but the Badgers sunk all eight of their remaining foul shots to seal the outcome.
"There was a sense of urgency, definitely, while we were out there. We knew we needed to go out there and get stops and make a run," Kaminsky said.
Wisconsin shot 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from the field in the second half after going just 36.7 percent (11-of-30) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson each scored 15 points for the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (26-12), who defeated No. 5 seed Arkansas to reach the Sweet 16.
"I think the toughness that they showed today was really something," UNC coach Roy Williams said of Wisconsin. "It's strange, the difference between winning and losing is so small."
Kennedy Meeks got the start for North Carolina despite being a game-time decision due to a knee injury. The 270-pound forward battled foul trouble in the second half, however, and scored just four points on 1-of-4 shooting.
After Nate Britt's two foul shots staked UNC to its four-point advantage at the 7:09 mark, the Badgers ripped off nine straight points.
Kaminsky nailed a left-wing 3 and consecutive layups from backup point guard Zak Showalter, in the game because Bronson Koenig was battling foul trouble, preceded a Dekker layup that capped the sprint and make it 65-60 in favor of the Badgers with 5:14 to go.
Jackson then came off a screen and knocked down a right-wing trey following a timeout, and Johnson split a pair of foul shots to get UNC right back within a point.
Josh Gasser, though, potted a critical 3-pointer from the top of the arc following a Dekker offensive rebound to extend Wisconsin's margin to 68-64 with 3:24 on the clock.
Earlier, Dekker put in the final six points of an 8-0 Wisconsin spurt, helping it build a 25-20 spread.
The Tar Heels answered with an 11-1 burst a bit later. Jackson hit a triple and J.P. Tokoto's outlet pass propelled Isaiah Hicks to a layup in transition to give them a 33-28 cushion.
Dekker's tip-in in the final second of the first half trimmed the Badgers' deficit to 33-31 at the break.
UNC held Kaminsky to just four points on 2-of-7 shooting in the first half and tallied eight fastbreak points. Wisconsin had allowed just eight of them combined over its first two tournament wins against Coastal Carolina and Oregon.
The Badgers, however, pulled down eight offensive rebounds to aid them into only being down by two.
"We're extremely happy to get another 40 minutes," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "That was not our best half in the first half."
Neither team led by more than five in the first 20 minutes.
Berry canned a 3-pointer and Paige poured in a jumper to finish off an 8-2 swing that vaulted UNC to a 51-44 advantage with 12:16 remaining.
Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson returned from an 19-game absence due to a foot injury and scored four points ... Dekker was 10-of-15 from the floor ... The Tar Heels fell to 25-7 all-time in the regional semifinals ... UNC was seeking its first regional final appearance since reaching consecutive Elite Eights in 2011 and 2012.