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Kentucky Falls Short Of Perfect: Wisconsin To Face Duke At Championship

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The Wisconsin bench celebrates as Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein walks off after the NCAA Final Four game Saturday. Wisconsin won 71-64.
David J. Phillip, AP
The Wisconsin bench celebrates as Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein walks off after the NCAA Final Four game Saturday. Wisconsin won 71-64.

Wisconsin defeated Kentucky 71-64 in Saturday's nail-biter second Final Four game Saturday, breaking the Wildcats' winning streak; the Badgers meet Duke to play for the men's college basketball title.

The faceoff between Kentucky and Wisconsin, both top-seeded teams, was highly anticipated. On the line for the undefeated Wildcats: their shot at men's college basketball's first perfect season since 1976.

For the Badgers, the stakes were personal: Kentucky beat Wisconsin by a single point in last year's Final Four. As NPR's Tom Goldman put it, "for Wisconsin, it's time to get even."

Kentucky was 5-0 in the first few minutes of the game, but Wisconsin quickly caught up, then took the lead. At one point in the first half, the Badgers led by 9. But the Wildcats fought their way back to tie it up again, and the first half ended 36-36.

The lead switched several times in the second half. Wisconsin led by 8, but with less than 8 minutes left, Kentucky fought back to even and then pulled ahead by 4. But in the end, the Badgers had the momentum, and finally got even for 2014's loss.

...

Duke decisively defeated Michigan State in its Final Four game earlier Saturday, taking the lead halfway through the first and never handing it back.

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It was a faceoff between two coaching legends. Tom Izzo has led the Spartans to seven Final Fours, and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski was in his 12th semifinal. But Coach K headed into the game with an 8-1 record against Izzo, and the trend carried.

Michigan State — a seventh-seed among top seeds in this Final Four — started strong, taking an early lead.

But a dunk by Duke's freshman star Jahlil Okafor put the Blue Devils ahead by two midway through the first half. Duke built on that lead, heading into halftime up 36-25.

The Spartans never recovered, and Duke's lead stayed in the double digits through the second half. Denzel Valentine led the game in scoring with 22 points for Michigan State, but it wasn't enough; Duke won 81-61. The Blue Devils will head to the finals to try for their fifth men's basketball title.

The men's championship game will be held Monday at 9 p.m. EDT. Women's semifinals will be in Tampa on Sunday, and the women's championship will be Tuesday night.

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