ARLINGTON, Texas - Between hugging his teammates and letting a few tears run down his cheeks, Evan Anderson spoke of the heartbreak of seeing Wisconsin go from playing in tonight's national championship game to having its season end in 5.7 seconds.
But besides the agony attached with Wisconsin's 74-74 loss to Kentucky, Anderson was filled with pride when he spoke of the ride he and his teammates were able to go on over the last nine months.
"I knew we had potential to get here and if we stuck true to who we were, we could beat anybody," said Anderson. "I am not surprised that we are here. I am real happy for our guys and happy to be a part of it. This is a great way to end it for me. To be with these guys and experience this is awesome."
Despite having one season of eligibility remaining, Anderson announced in late February that his redshirt junior season would be his last. He was honored alongside seniors Ben Brust and Zach Bohannon on senior day and finished his career with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 40 games played in three seasons.
Anderson averaged only 0.4 points per game this past season, but played a Big Ten career-best seven minutes that helped Wisconsin escape with a win at Purdue, the only win during a six game stretch from Jan.14 to Feb.1 that didn't derail UW's season.
"We stuck true to who we are," said Anderson. "We played great defense down the stretch, stayed patient with the ball, got the best shots we can and worked hard and competed in practice every day. Everybody just wants the best for this team. Like Coach Ryan mentioned in his press conference, nobody cares who gets the credit. We just want Wisconsin basketball to get there and this team is important to us."
Anderson said he wrestled with his decision for a couple weeks because of the camaraderie in the locker room, but became at peace with his decision during the Badgers' first run to the Final Four since 2000.
"This is a great way to go out, being at the Final Four," said Anderson. "It's a nice way to end my career, getting to this stage with these guys."
Anderson is scheduled to graduate from UW in May with a degree in community and environmental sociology with a certificate in criminal justice. He's also engaged to be married, although that date isn't set in stone.
"I hope I can land in a career somewhere where I am just helping people out," said Anderson. "It doesn't have to be something really significant, but something at the end of the day where I can be helping people out. That will be satisfying."
It might be as satisfying as being able to reflect on what he called the best four years of his life.
"I'll be watching these guys and cheering these guys on forever."