Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky and Sam Dekker still were holding court on the floor at Staples Center long after they’d put the finishing touches on Wisconsin’s west regional championship win over Arizona in the NCAA tournament.
They were entertaining family and friends, this time with laughs and before that clutch shots.
Kaminsky has been in a groove for most of the Badgers’ season, but Dekker has really found his shot these last two games. Together, they scored a combined 56 points Saturday. In the win over North Carolina, Kaminsky and Dekker combined for 44 points.
They could be the most dangerous — and funny — duo in the NCAA tournament.
"(It’s very) difficult," Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes said of defending the pair. "Frank is inside, but we all know he can shoot. He goes to work on the inside. (With) Sam shooting as well as he is, I think we’re probably near impossible to stop."
They’re so good together, they deserve their own nickname.
Tankekker should work.
Too bad there is not a Most Outstanding Players Award, because they should both get it. Dekker won the award after posting back-to-back career-high games with 23 and 27 points. He got a hug from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the Staples Center court. But he was tied up in a postgame television interview while the Badgers were celebrating on the podium. Sometimes, being a star comes with a price. And it wasn’t a bad one.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and play my game," Dekker said. "Try to be an attack-first guy. I have the ability to use my athleticism. Sometimes, I don’t use it the way I should and when I’m in tune with that and using it to my advantage, it makes the game come a lot more smoothly and naturally."
Stanley Johnson falls short at home as Arizona’s season ends in Elite Eight
Kaminsky had a team-high 29 points Saturday and 27 the day before. They had a combined 98 points in the regional.
To start the second half, Kaminsky drained a 3-pointer to tie the game against Arizona.
And the night before the game, Kaminsky did a live interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter. A reporter asked how he got Ryan to approve that the night before a game that would decide a Final Four berth. He didn’t ask. Instead, he was worried about his outfit and not having something better to wear. Really.
"I just walked over," Kaminsky said of his trip from his hotel to the television studios. "We’re just trying to have as much fun as possible. We’re still kids. At the same time, we know what we’re trying to accomplish."
Seemingly every time the Wildcats tried to cut Wisconsin’s lead, Dekker had something up his sleeve. He made five of Wisconsin’s 12 3-pointers, including a head-shaking, how-did-he-do-that 3-pointer, seemingly shot from across from Starbucks across the street, but it was from just in front of the Badgers bench.
He drained that 3-pointer to give Wisconsin a 79-71 lead with 1:51 left.
Dekker with the dagger.
"Coach Bo Ryan thought it was like the one I had in high school to win state," Dekker said.
Countered Ryan: "It was."
To which Dekker replied: "Kind of. I had to get (the shot) up a little higher. I had a good, clean look at the rim. I just had to put a lot of arc on it and kind of float it toward the rim. It felt good off the hand."
Kaminsky with the inside baskets. And Arizona coach Sean Miller couldn’t come up with a way to contain both of them.
"You know, I think we tried everything," Miller said. "Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) did a really good job in the first half when he was on Kaminsky, but he’s not going to just pitch a shutout. The problem was he can’t guard two people.
"When Sam Dekker does what he did, and I think some of those shots were very well defended, when he does that with Kaminsky, maybe only Kentucky can beat them. I’m telling you, I don’t know if there is another one out there when they’re clicking with that one-two punch."
Wisconsin gets that shot for a rematch with Kentucky in the Final Four for the second consecutive year. Kentucky won last year, 74-73.
Dekker has really blossomed into quite an NBA prospect, and now Kentucky must contend with superstar Kaminsky and Dekker.