PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Bobby Pettiford Jr. from Kansas was standing all the way near midcourt, almost on the Battle 4 Atlantis logo, when he saw his teammate shoot the lead with just seconds left in overtime.
“I mean, I don’t normally crash, but that’s the only time I crash,” Pettiford said.
He sprinted all the way under the basket just in time to see it bounce loose to him. Pettiford then made a layup layup with 0.2 seconds left to give No. 3 Kansas a 69-68 win against Wisconsin in the tournament semifinals on Thursday.
Pettiford’s layup marked his only points of the game, capping a thriller that saw Wisconsin rally from 15 early in the second half behind a strong performance by Tyler Wahl.
Kansas’ final 68-67 game stalled when Jalen Wilson had to kick a pass to Zach Clemence beyond the 3-point arc with about 5 seconds left. Clemence launched a long 3 that ricocheted off the basket, but Wilson kept the play alive by tipping the ball enough to prevent Wahl from rebounding.
The ball went right to Pettiford.
“I had a pretty good angle, but I think a bit of luck and skill at the same time,” he said. “So I was kind of hoping it would go in.
Pettiford hit the floor as he watched the ball go through the net, then put his fists out in front of him and yelled as he started to sit up. Wisconsin’s Max Klesmit crouched in disbelief.
Pettiford wore a big smile as he got to his feet as his teammates began hugging him near the base corner to celebrate. The team left the court to chants of “Bobby! Bobby!” as they headed to Friday’s championship game.
Wilson scored 29 points and had 14 rebounds for the reigning national champion Jayhawks (6-0) and Kevin McCullar Jr. had 18 points and nine rebounds — and a 3 with 11.8 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
“We didn’t do anything in the second half and they completely outplayed us,” coach Bill Self said. “Obviously, we made two plays at the end of regulation and at the end of overtime that basically got us the win. We weren’t the best team today.”
Wahl led the Badgers (4-1) with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He scored 14 points in what was at times a one-man comeback in the second half, including a nine-point streak when his team trailed by eight in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation.
His final score was a spinning layup against a falling Wilson for a 68-67 lead with 21 seconds left in OT.
The Badgers just couldn’t get the final stop.
“We’re not going for a moral victory, but this group showed me a lot today,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “And we also learned that we have a lot of things we can continue to improve on.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Wisconsin: The same team that struggled to break 40 points — or, frankly, shoot — in the first round of the tournament against Dayton looked to be on its way to another poor offensive showing. Instead, Wahl and the Badgers showed resilience and climbed back into it, staying within a shot of Kansas.
“He kicked our ass,” Self said of Wahl.
Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy time in their Atlanta debut 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 on a Zach Clemence rebound for a 3-pointer. Likewise, Kansas was still undefeated.
Wisconsin: The Badgers will play the loser of Southern California and Tennessee in Friday’s third-place game.
Kansas: The Jayhawks advanced to Friday’s championship game to face the winner of Southern California-Tennessee.
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