Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
UK comeback ends Cards' reign
Saturday, March 29, 2014 5:00 AM
INDIANAPOLIS - OK, so maybe they're not the quickest learners. Still, the kids at Kentucky figured out Louisville just in time.
Kentucky’s James Young goes up for a shot Louisville’s Stephan Van Treese (44), Montrezl Harrell (24) and Terry Rozier (0) during the first half of an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal college basketball tourney game Friday in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
LUCAS OIL STADIUM
5:25 p.m. Sunday
TV: Live on CBS
Aaron Harrison hit a 3-pointer for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds left and Julius Randle made a pair of clutch free throws to lift the fantastic freshman of Kentucky to a 74-69 victory over their in-state rivals.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) led for a grand total of 65 seconds in this Midwest Regional semifinal. They'll play Michigan on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
Few expected a run this deep as this season played out and Kentucky's five freshmen starters struggled to play a team game. But they've been learning slowly. Trailing by seven with 4 1/2 minutes left, things kicked in again.
Actually, it was a sophomore, Alex Poythress, who scored five points in a 7-0 run that tied the game at 66 with 2:11 left. Then, it was the Kentucky freshmen who showed all the poise against the defending national champs, led by seniors Russ Smith (23 points) and Luke Hancock (19).
Harrison took a pass from Julius Randle and spotted up in the corner for the go-ahead shot. Both finished with 15 points, as did yet another freshman starter, Dakari Johnson.
On the next possession, Louisville's Wayne Blackshear got fouled. The 71 percent career free throw shooter missed the first. Randle came down and made two free throws to put Kentucky ahead by three. Smith missed a tough look at a 3-pointer on the next possession and a few seconds later, the Wildcats were chest bumping and coach John Calipari was pumping his fists to a loud stadium full of blue.
This was the ultimate lesson in patience for a team that, for so long, had trouble showing any.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who fell to 11-1 in Sweet 16 games, produced a matchup zone that the Wildcats had trouble working through.
The Cards led by as many as 13 in the first half, yet went to halftime only up three despite holding Kentucky to 33 percent from the floor.
Making this win even more impressive for the Wildcats: They played almost the entire game without Willie Cauley-Stein, an NBA-caliber forward who sprained his left ankle early. And James Young, who also might go pro, fouled out with 5:32 left.
That left it to Harrison, his twin brother, Andrew (14 points) and Randle, a lottery pick in waiting who was a monster inside. He had 12 rebounds to go with the 15 points. He's had a double-double in all three tournament games.
Now, who's to say the Wildcats can't go all the way?
Calipari makes no apologies for recruiting the best talent and taking his chances they'll leave before they really set up shop at Kentucky. That strategy helped him bring the eighth national title back home two years ago. Then, Louisville won it last year. Now, Kentucky is a win away from the program's 16th trip to the Final Four.
Standing in the way is Michigan, who survived it's own close call in a 73-71 win over Tennessee.
The Vols'Jarnell Stokes was called for a charge with 6 seconds left and Jordan McRae's desperation heave from 70 feet hit nothing but air as Michigan advanced in Friday's first semifinal at Indianapolis.
"Obviously we got the ball where we wanted," Tennese coach Cuonzo Martin said as tears flowed inside the locker room. "Just didn't get the result."
The Volunteers (24-13) couldn't believe it, either.
They fought back from a 15-point deficit in the final 11 minutes by allowing just one basket over the final 3 minutes, 40 seconds, forcing four turnovers in the final 97 seconds and somehow even had a chance to win it when Caris LeVert stepped on the baseline as he caught an inbound pass with 9.6 seconds to go.
Martin called timeout to draw up a play to win it, getting the ball to Stokes.
As Stokes started to make his backdown move toward the basket, he lowered his shoulder and Michigan forward Jordan Morgan crashed to the floor, drawing the call that saved the game for Michigan and infuriated the "Rocky Top" contingent in Indianapolis.
"No, I don't think I fouled him," Stokes said after finishing with 11 points and six rebounds. "But it was a smart play for him (Morgan) to try to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it."
McRae had 24 points and Josh Richardson added 19.
Morgan, who scored 15 points, simply followed his coach's advice and stood his ground to get the last turnover of the game.
Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas then made a late free throw and a relieved Beilein watched as McRae's heave fell harmlessly to the floor as the buzzer sounded.
"We got just enough stops," Beilein said.