It was practically deja vu. A Big Ten team leading the Kentucky Wildcats in the dying moments of the ball game. Aaron Harrison received the ball at the perimeter, and with Big Blue Nation's anxious eyes watching from North Texas to The Commonwealth State, the fearless freshman drilled a shot that will live on in Kentucky Wildcats Basketball lore.
The Michigan Wolverines were on the receiving end of this scenario last Sunday in Indianapolis. Now, the Wisconsin Badgers were the victims of Big Blue Nation's devastating dagger. And despite missing just one -- albeit a very crucial one - free throw all evening, Bucky and the Badgers are sent back to Madison on the losing side of a 74-73 decision.
For the fourth time in a row, the game was choreographed almost exactly the same: Kentucky took punch after punch in the opening round, as Bo Ryan's squad connected with quick jabs and strikes to open the affair in Arlington. But as halftime drew near, the Wildcats rose from their slumber, and after taking a licking they kept on ticking, pulling to within four points as the buzzer sounded after the first 20-minute period.
And then, like being shot out of a cannon, the Wildcats were the ones dishing out a beating.
John Calipari's crew clobbered the Badgers at the beginning of the second half. After two James Young free throws at the 15:33 mark in the 2nd Half, Kentucky was on top 51-43, which put the finishing touches to an astounding 15-0 run right out of the gates.
But Bo Ryan, a head coach who was in the mix of the first Final Four of his coaching career, had been far too snakebitten to see his team lie down this way. And out of a TV timeout, the Badgers were back, responding with punches of their own. And just under four minutes later, Bucky was back on top.
Trade blows they did for the remainder of the game. Pacquiao-Mayweather at Cowboys Stadium was thought to be a great spectacle if it went down inside this monstrosity in North Texas. And perhaps a fight featuring two of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the current boxing realm would have lived up to its hype. But as of 2014, it has not, and probably will not occur. It is nothing more than a "what if," joining a long list of them in sports history.
But the 79,444 fans who filled the venue affectionately known as Jerry World -- a record-breaking figure -- saw one hell of a heavyweight fight anyway.
Traevon Jackson, a junior guard from Westerville, Oh., has connected with many shots in a game's waning moments over the years. In fact, just this year, Jackson cashed in with a go-ahead bucket inside Kohl Center to take down the mighty Michigan St. Spartans. But as sports, and life as well has told us many times, for as many times as you land on the right side of the coin, the wrong side will turn up eventually.
As fate would have it, Jackson, unfortunately, would be on the short end of the stick on this Saturday night in The Lone Star State. Traevon earned an opportunity to bury three free throw attempts near the end of the game. And yes, he knocked down two of them. But it was the first free throw he could not connect with that wound up being the difference in this one-point contest.
And then Aaron Harrison once again delivered for the Wildcats, hitting a high-arcing three, resembling a knockout punch heard 'round the world.
In the final round of this heavyweight bout, Jackson looked to send the he and the Badgers to the National Championship Game, and look for an achievement that the program has searched for since the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.
But Jackson's cruel fate was sealed as the final horn blared, coming up empty in his search for the open bank.
In all, the Badgers close out a stupendous season. They finish the campaign 30-8, with scorching hot offensive numbers to boot. Despite not winning the regular season or conference tournament in the Big Ten, they were the last team standing from the league, something neither Michigan or Michigan State could not lay claim to.
Senior Ben Brust closes out his run in Madison as the all-time leading three-point shot maker, with 228 buckets from downtown. His final performance was a solid one, going for 15 points, connecting with each of his six free throw attempts. Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky closed his torrid run through the NCAA Tournament with an eight point, five rebound and two block performance in 32 minutes of action.
For Traevon Jackson, while his cruel fate will leave a bitter taste in his mouth for the rest of his life, he finished with 12 points on 44.4 percent shooting from the field. He joins Brust and forward Sam Dekker in double figures, as the sophomore in Dekker joined Brust with 15 points of his own, too. And rounding out the starting five was Josh Gasser, and while he only scored two points in 40 minutes, he played some great defense, doing what he does best and contributing to an effort that came up just short.
It's like the late, great Jim McKay told us in the intro to ABC's Wide World of Sports. "It's the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat."
And on this night, the Badgers unfortunately suffered a most agonizing defeat.