Arizona, Wisconsin welcome rematch of 2014's 'crazy, crazy scenario'

Arizona welcomes another shot after what-ifs of 2014 NCAA Regional loss to Wisconsin in overtime

It was 2.3 seconds that took five minutes and 14 camera angles to set up, and nearly a year later, Arizona's Gabe York would like to forget the whole thing.

"I don't even want to think about that," York said.

But he did.

"That was a crazy, crazy scenario," York said. "There was only two seconds left and it took [five] minutes to have those two seconds end."

But have they?

Massive confusion, and extensive scanning of replays, gave Arizona the ball against Wisconsin for one last shot in overtime in the 2014 West Regional final at Honda Center. The Wildcats' Nick Johnson failed to get a shot off. Wisconsin held on, 64-63, and was off to the Final Four.

Up the freeway in Staples Center on Saturday, Wisconsin (34-3) and Arizona (34-3) get to do it all over again.

The stakes are the same, the West Regional championship and a likely shot at Kentucky in the Final Four. There will be some new faces (the Wildcats lost Nick Johnson, but gained Stanley Johnson) and the roles are bit reversed (Arizona was No. 1 and Wisconsin No. 2 a year ago and flipped this season).

Once again, it will be Sean Miller coaching from one bench and Bo Ryan from the other. And those two seconds still linger.

"One bounce of the ball changed the whole season," Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser said. "It could change it again this season."

Arizona players hopes that it won't take the same bounce.

The two teams scratched and clawed through regulation and overtime. Wisconsin inbounded the ball with three seconds left. The Badgers' Traevon Jackson and Arizona's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson lunged for the ball, knocking it out of bounds. After a lengthy review, referees overturned the call and gave the ball to Arizona.

It turned out not to matter. Johnson, dribbling to his left, got off a shot too late.

"It was a little anticlimactic," Gasser said. "There was more down time then actual playing. It was one of the most stressful, nerve-racking games I have been a part of, but in a good way."

The feeling wasn't the same on the other bench. There was nothing good about, and it left the Wildcats with one thought.

"We were one shot away," York said.

Gasser said that game will be part of Saturday's rematch.

"They are going to be exceptionally motivated because of what happened last year," Gasser said. "We want to get back to Final Four too. We want to win the whole thing. If that doesn't motivate us, then we're in the wrong spot."

Both teams saw this rematch as a possibility when NCAA tournament brackets were announced two weeks ago.

"We were all excited," York said. "But we had to take it one step at a time. We didn't know if they were going to win every game and we didn't know if we were going to win every game."

Both did.

"We're basketball players, obviously we were watching," York said. "We were seeing them advance."

The view from the other locker room was the same.

"You notice it, that's human nature," Gasser said. "Getting to it, though, was going to take work."

That work is finished. A new chore is at hand.

"It's icing on the cake that we get to play Wisconsin in the Elite Eight and get a chance to go to the Final Four," York said.

Wisconsin returns mostly the same group, though Jackson missed two months because of a fractured foot. He returned in Thursday's victory over North Carolina, playing nine minutes.

There are new faces for Arizona. Brandon Ashley, a junior forward, sat out last year after suffering a knee injury during the season. Stanley Johnson, a freshman, has made a significant impact this season.

"There is really no way to tell whether me being out there would have changed things," said Ashley, who averages 12.1 points per game this season. "There are always the what-ifs. It wasn't something I wanted to spend too much time thinking about."

Johnson, a senior at Santa Ana Mater Dei High a year ago, has had it on his mind. He sent a text to Miller after the game.

"I just told him I wanted to get us back here to the same game," Johnson said.

He had no idea it would be the exact same game.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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