March Madness 2014 final score: Arizona falls to Wisconsin, 64-63

Harry How

Controversy and too many offensive struggles ended poorly for the Arizona Wildcats.

One shove. One too many dribbles. Too many bad decisions.

The Arizona Wildcats had the answers but not the headiness to beat a Wisconsin Badgers team led by inside-out center Frank Kaminsky, who scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to drop Sean Miller's team 64-63 on Saturday, the second Elite Eight loss in the Honda Center in five seasons for Arizona's head coach.

The Wildcats couldn't use the excuse of poor free throws this time.

It wasn't bad defense or any fault of anyone on the rebounding front.

Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell, Arizona's backcourt leaders, couldn't make the plays needed to win this time around. To assign blame toward two players could be harsh, but this is what happens when the favorites are in position and the hype has been built.

Assigning blame happens because Johnson and McConnell earned it -- they've played much, much better games.

While Arizona's freshmen, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looked fearless, Johnson and McConnell seemed passive until it was too late. For McConnell, it was passing up open looks off ball movement and forcing long two-point jumpers, sometimes off balance. Johnson had the ability to drive by his defenders, but he often pulled back rather than attacking Kaminsky and Co. -- the UW big man was in foul trouble, by the way -- after finding lanes to the cup.

McConnell missed a go-ahead bucket with 13 seconds left, and once Arizona forced a turnover following a more-than-questionable offensive foul call on a driving Johnson, Johnson took two dribbles too many on an out-of-bounds play with 2.3 seconds left, getting up a shot well after the overtime buzzer went off.

The totals were ugly.

The Arizona backcourt went 8-for-27 and though Gordon went 3-for-11, he more than made up for it with 18 rebounds. Often, it was he and Hollis-Jefferson cleaning up bad misses by UA's veterans.

And the earthquakes felt earlier in Anaheim, Calif., fit the aftermath of the game.

Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears reports Gordon has already made his decision to leave for the NBA. Gordon showed all his strengths and weaknesses before what looks like his final game at Arizona came to an end.

Leading by as many as eight points in the first half, the Wildcats got off to a strong start, but missed shots in the paint. Adjustments by Wisconsin saw the lead dwindle to three points, 28-25, by halftime. Kaminsky was the biggest threat for the Badgers, scoring eight points and grabbing six boards in the first half, but Tarczewski matched his opponent with eight points.

While Kaminsky found success spotting up and also driving by Tarczewski, Miller shot a warning signal to Bo Ryan toward the end of the half by switching his center onto freshman forward Nigel Hayes and moving Gordon onto Kaminsky.

The bad news in the first half was Wisconsin grabbing eight offensive boards -- Zeus only pulled down a single rebound in the first 20 minutes -- and keeping pace despite shooting just 36 percent. Questionable calls by the officials helped the Wildcats as much as hurt them; Kaminsky picked up two fouls in the first half.

It was Miller's team that drew more shooting fouls. The Wildcats seemed to get by their defenders with ease, and they attacked the rim much better than they did on Thursday against San Diego State.

Miller also had the ability to go deeper into his bench.

But it didn't matter to Kaminsky who was guarding him to start the second half. He went inside and out, and scored nine points in the first five-plus minutes of the second half. Wisconsin found itself leading 41-36 with 13 minutes left before Arizona's defense awoke.

Hollis-Jefferson threw down a put-back off a badly-missed jumper by Johnson to tie the game with 36 seconds left, and he and Gordon knocked around the Badgers on the glass.

In the final few minutes, Miller turned to a small lineup to match Gordon with Kaminsky, and it paid dividends. With the final possession to Wisconsin and the game tied at 54 with 30 seconds left in regulation, Gordon switched onto Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson and forced a short jumper.

Arizona survived but never could adjust.

It was on to overtime, and the Wildcats never found a functional offense. Arizona shot 39 percent for the game, and after an aggressive start began hesitating, the ball sticking. After going 8-for-11 from the foul stripe in the first half, the Wildcats only got to the stripe six more times.

Arizona took a blow from an officiating crew that seemed to make one mistake after another, but this was about the team that didn't get offset by either the opponent or the calls. Wisconsin won the battle of resiliency, coming from behind and in the final eight minutes refusing to let Arizona's usual defensive push bother it.

The Wildcats' weaknesses on offense haunted them, the lack of a Derrick Williams-like fearlessness killing any shot at making up for the lack of shooting or slashing -- or outright aggression.

The 2013-14 Arizona team will be remembered for defense, and maybe moreso for a what-if scenario that included Brandon Ashley.

And now comes the grieving process, something that could be short-lived for Gordon.

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