PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Kansas native Bobby Pettiford Jr. was standing all the way near midcourt, almost on the Battle 4 Atlantis logo, when he saw his teammate fire a shot up front with just a few seconds left in overtime.
“I mean, I don’t usually crash, but this is the only time I do,” Pettiford said.
He ran all the way under the basket just in time to see his weak rebound. Pettiford then looped a reverse shot with 0.2 seconds left to give No. 3 Kansas a 69-68 win over Wisconsin on Thursday in their semifinal game.
Pettiford’s layup set up his only points of the game, capping a thrill that saw Wisconsin come from 15 down early in the second period behind a solid performance from Tyler Wahl.
Trailing 68-67, Kansas’ final play seemed stuck when Jalen Wilson was forced to punt a pass to Zach Clemens after the 3-point arc with about 5 seconds left in the game. Clemens fired the long 3 that hit the basket, but Wilson kept the play alive by turning the ball over just enough to prevent Wahl from fumbling on the rebound.
The ball went straight to Pettiford.
“I had a kind of good angle, but I mean, kind of luck and skill at the same time,” he said. “So I was kind of hoping you’d get in.”
Pettiford slumped to the ground as he watched the ball go through the net, then extended his fists in front of him and yelled as he began to sit up. Wisconsin’s Max Kleismit crouched in a squatting position, in disbelief.
By the time Pettiford got to his feet, he had a big smile as his teammates began to embrace him near the corner of the baseline in celebration. The team left the stadium chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” as they headed to Friday’s championship game.
Wilson scored 29 points and 14 rebounds for the reigning national champion Jayhawks (6-0), and Kevin McCullar Jr. had 18 points, nine rebounds – and 3 with 11.8 seconds left in overtime.
“We had nothing (in the second half) and they completely outplayed us,” said coach Bill Self. “Obviously we give two games at the end of regulation and the end of extra time which basically gave us the win. We weren’t the best team today.”
Wall led the Badgers (4-1) with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He scored 14 points in the second half in what was at times a solo comeback, including a streak of nine straight points as his team trailed eight points in the last 3 1/2 minutes of regulation.
His last score was a turnaround attempt against Wilson who went down on a layup and took a 68-67 lead with 21 seconds left in the game.
The Badgers were unable to obtain a final point.
“We don’t get moral wins,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, “but this group showed me a lot today. We also learned that we have a lot of things we can continue to improve.”
The Big Picture
Wisconsin: The same team that struggled to break 40 points — or a shot, frankly — in the first round of the tournament against Dayton appeared to be on its way to another bad offensive showing. Instead, Wahl and the Badgers showed resilience and climbed back up, staying under fire with Kansas down the stretch.
Self said of Wahl: “He kicked our ass”.
Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy time in their debut in Atlantis on Thursday, needing to fight until the final minutes against North Carolina State. This time, Pettiford was in the right place at the right time after Wilson tipped the ball out of Wahl’s reach to kick a Zach Clemence rebound that missed a 3-pointer. Just like that, Kansas was still undefeated with a 17-game winning streak dating back to last year to Self’s second NCAA title.
Wisconsin: The Badgers will face Southern California, who lost to No. 22 Tennessee, in the third-place game on Friday.
Kansas: The Jayhawks advanced to the championship game on Friday to face the Volunteers in a seeded versus final-ranked finale.
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