Aaron Harrison’s game-winner sends Kentucky to Final Four
BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter March 30, 2014 6:10PM
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 30: Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball against Derrick Walton Jr. #10 of the Michigan Wolverines in the second half during the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Updated: March 30, 2014 10:13PM
INDIANAPOLIS — With a little over eight minutes left, Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison was scoreless. A non-factor. A talented freshman guard falling way short in the biggest game of his team’s season.
Now, he’s a hero for all Big Blue eternity.
Harrison made four three-pointers down the stretch against Michigan. The last one, from the left wing despite a perfect close-out by Caris LeVert, splashed in with 2.3 seconds left, putting the Wildcats on top by three.
The game ended 75-72 after Nik Stauskas’ halfcourt heave for overtime bounced wide off the backboard.
It was a sad way to go out for Michigan, but another great day for college basketball’s marquee event. This simply has to be one of the wildest, most exciting NCAA tournaments in memory.
Kentucky-Wichita State set the bar. Kentucky-Louisville and Wisconsin-Arizona might have topped it. Then Kentucky-Michigan came along and blew everyone’s mind.
“You don’t know how to feel,” Harrison said on the court after the Wildcats had cut down the nets.
Did Harrison know the game-winning shot was good before it went in?
“A little bit, I knew,” he said.
But not really? “Not really.”
What matters is that Midwest Regional No. 8 seed Kentucky — a preseason No. 1 that lost its way for much of the regular season — is rolling to the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, having survived a murderers’ row of Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan, three of the teams from last year’s Final Four.
“When you think of who we had to play?” coach John Calipari said, shaking his head. “And the games were all epic games.”
Stauskas scored 24 to lead the Wolverines, who tried valiantly but, in the end, failed to keep Kentucky from exploiting an enormous size advantage. Led by Julius Randle inside, the Wildcats outrebounded Michigan by 11 and scored 46 points in the paint.
Kentucky trailed by 10 points in the early going but rallied for a 37-37 halftime tie thanks to 10 points each from freshmen James Young and — who? — Marcus Lee.
Lee, coming off the bench in place of the injured Willie Cauley-Stein, made for an instant story. The former McDonald’s All-American — hey, this is Kentucky — had nearly as many DNPs (15) as field goals (19) entering the game and had played all of one minute in the tourney.
Pretty amazing, but Harrison sure topped it.
“It’s part of basketball,” Stauskas said of Harrison’s dagger.