Let’s set the stage. Last season versus the Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four, Wisconsin Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson was a big factor in the game. He scored 12 points with 4 assists in the Badgers one-point loss, but you know something must be just eating him alive thinking about playing Kentucky again. With 15.1 seconds to go in the game, Jackson was able to draw a foul on Andrew Harrison, who was a freshman at the time with lack of experience in the situation.
Jackson was fouled from behind the three-point line, giving him three free throws. Jackson made two out of three, giving Wisconsin the 73-71 lead over the Wildcats. In most cases, the one missed free throw out of three may not have been a big deal, but it cost the Badgers big time. With the game now with under ten seconds to go, the Badgers needed to prevent the three-point shot. Aaron Harrison, who had a series of clutch shots throughout the tournament. Harrison hit a big three over Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser, giving Kentucky the lead. Jackson was then the man Wisconsin looked to for clutch shots, and it was the case yet again. Jackson however was just off the mark on his jumper, as it rattled out of the rim, giving Kentucky the win and the National Title berth.
Jackson said he wanted to get back to Final Four so bad that he prayed for it to happen, which he now finally gets to do, in which could be his last game as a college athlete.
“All this stuff that happened, to be able to go to back-to-back Final Fours – I prayed for this consistently over and over again,” Jackson said.
Jackson missed a majority of his senior year due to a broken foot, suffered in Wisconsin’s lost versus Rutgers were wooden award finalist Frank Kaminsky also didn’t play due to a concussion. That didn’t step him from being a great teammate, and helping out his replacement in the starting lineup at point guard, Bronson Koenig.
“Trae has been supportive throughout this whole process, [getting hurt], Sam Dekker said. He’s a great teammate and he’s always been there for Bronson and for us . Being a coach on the sidelines.”
Jackson has embraced his role off the bench in his return to the Badgers, as he originally returned in the Badgers Sweet Sixteen game versus the North Carolina Tar Heels.
“It’s different. It’s a role that changed,” Jackson said about being a reserve. “That’s what has allowed me to really just focus and get into adverse situations and adapt. Adapt for anything and get ready for any situation.”
Going back to the shot, Jackson had the following to say on his missed game winner in last year’s Final Four contest versus Kentucky.
“Well, I think I got hit on my arm,””But I thought once it was out of my hands I thought it had a chance to go in.
Jackson is also one of many players that could be poised for a big game versus Kentucky. Wisconsin senior guard Josh Gasser, who Aaron Harrison hit his big three over is also motivated to play big for the Badgers. His comments last year after the shot prove that.
Gasser on Harrison’s shot and if it surprised him or not.
“A little bit,” Gasser said when speaking on if he was surprised about the shot or not. “He was pretty deep out there. He hadn’t really looked to pull the entire game.
“I saw him start to rise up and I tried to contest it as best I could. I thought I did a good job but he made a tough shot.”
Joan Gasser, who is Josh Gasser’s mother, has also spoken on his son’s frustration about the game, and just losing in general when it comes to something Gasser losses.
“He’s got this weird thing about losing,” Joan Gasser said. “But lots of people do. He just couldn’t lose at anything. If the football was near him, he’d kill himself to get it. No matter what drill you’d run in practice, he always had to win. You can see the motor running in his head. He’s very quiet. But you know what he’s thinking: win, win, win.”
“I just told him [Harrison] made a great shot, a great play,” Joan Gasser says. “But personally I thought it was a really foolish shot. I’d give him that shot any day of the week again, but he happened to make it. And good for him.
Gasser’s father Pat provided in some further details on how Gasser was feeling after the loss.
“He never came out and said it, but I sensed he felt that they should have won that game and by no means did they lose to a team that was better than them,” Pat Gasser said. “Kentucky’s a great, great team and everything, but that just deflated him.”
Josh even tries to forget about it sometimes, but at other moments it seems to overwhelm him with emotion.
“I try not to think about it much,” Gasser says. “It’s one of those games and moments that you just don’t want to think about. But unfortunately it sometimes creeps in your head a little bit.”
Another Wisconsin player that already showcased his ability to show up in big games already throughout the tournament is Sam Dekker. We all remember Sam Dekker setting the world on fire with his three pointers. and will be motivated to beat Kentucky this time around. As we can tell by his Twitter background photo.
It’s clear the Dekker wants what Kentucky was able to capture last season. While the Badgers face a whole knew different Kentucky team, with the motivation to be the first team in NCAA history to go 40-0, the Badgers will need more then just motivation to try to pull off an ‘upset’ if you will.
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