PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Kansas’ Bobby Pettiford Jr. was standing very close to midfield, almost atop Battle 4’s Atlantis logo, when he saw his teammate launch a shot for the lead, just seconds into overtime.
“I mean, I don’t usually fall, but this is the one time I do,” said Pettiford.
He sprinted under the basket just in time to see a loose rebound. Pettiford then made a twisted reverse layup with 0.2 seconds left to give No. 3 Kansas a 69-68 win over Wisconsin in a tournament semifinal game on Thursday.
Pettiford’s layup marked his only points of the game, capping a thrill that saw Wisconsin recover from 15 down early in the second half behind a strong performance from Tyler Wahl.
Trailing 68-67, Kansas’ last game seemed deadlocked when Jalen Wilson had to kick a pass to Zach Clemence past the 3-point arc with about 5 seconds left. Clemence launched the long 3 that popped off the basket, but Wilson kept the game alive by tapping the ball far enough to keep Wahl from snagging the rebound.
The ball went straight to Pettiford.
“I had a good angle, but I mean a bit of luck and skill at the same time,” he said. “So I was just hoping it would come in.”
Pettiford landed on the ground as he watched the ball go through the net, then stretched out his fists in front of him and screamed as he sat up. Max Klesmit from Wisconsin squatted in disbelief.
Standing up, Pettiford had a big smile on his face while his teammates began hugging him near the baseline corner in celebration. 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 reigning national champion Jayhawks (6-0), and Kevin McCullar Jr. had 18 points and nine rebounds — and a 3 with 11.8 seconds remaining rule to force overtime.
“We didn’t have anything going (in the second half) and they totally outplayed us,” said coach Bill Self. “Obviously at the end of regulation and at the end of overtime we’re doing two games that basically gave 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 the second half in what was at times a one-man comeback, including a nine-point streak, while his team lost eight points in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation time.
His final result was a spinning drive against a falling Wilson for a layup and the 68-67 lead with 21 seconds left at OT.
The Badgers just couldn’t get an end stop.
“We don’t go for morale wins, but this group showed me a lot today,” said Wisconsin coach Greg Gard. “And we also learned that we have many things in which we can continue to improve.”
Wisconsin: The same team that struggled to crack 40 points — or, frankly, take a shot — against Dayton in the first round of the tournament appeared to be on the way to another poor offensive performance. Instead, Wahl and the Badgers showed resilience and climbed back in, falling shot after shot with Kansas.
“He kicked our ass,” Self said of Wahl.
Kansas: The Jayhawks struggled on Thursday’s Atlantis debut, battling North Carolina State until the final minutes. This time, Pettiford was in the right place at the right time after Wilson tipped the ball out of Wahl’s reach for a rebound from Zach Clemence’s missed 3-pointer. Kansas was undefeated just like that.
Wisconsin: The Badgers meet Southern California in Friday’s third-place game.
Kansas: The Jayhawks advanced to Friday’s championship game against Tennessee.