Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Sports

Kentucky stuns Michigan to reach Final Four

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INDIANAPOLIS — The shot came from NBA range, and if things play out as expected, Aaron Harrison and a lot of those Kentucky kids will be playing in that league soon enough.

First, they're heading to the Final Four — a trip to Arlington, Texas, courtesy of Harrison's unforgettable big shot.

The 6-foot-6 forward made a 3-pointer from about 24 feet with 2.3 seconds left Sunday to lift the Wildcats and all those freshmen to a 75-72 win over Michigan and the program's 16th trip to the Final Four.

He backpedaled slowly after the ball hit twine. Teammates Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle chased him down.

"Making that shot and seeing my teammates so happy and turning toward me, it's the best feeling in the world," Harrison said.

Michigan's Nik Stauskas missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, then it was Harrison's turn on the bottom of a dog pile. Or perhaps a puppy pile: Eighth-seeded Kentucky is the first all-freshman starting lineup to make the Final Four since the Fab Five at Michigan in 1992.

The Wildcats (28-10) play No. 2 seed Wisconsin on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.

"They made a great shot," said Stauskas, who led the second-seeded Wolverines with 24 points. "I thought we did a pretty good job contesting it. It's part of basketball."

The Wolverines (28-9) ended their season one win shy of a second straight Final Four.

It has been quite a ride for the Wildcats, an all-new collection of McDonald's All-Americans who were touted as a title favorite then dismissed when the bad losses and bad basketball piled up in January and February.

Coach John Calipari got things turned around by March, and for the second straight game in the Midwest Region, Harrison made the shot that gave the Wildcats the lead for good. On Friday, he made a key 3 in a 74-69 win over rival Louisville. Kentucky is the first team to knock the defending champion and runnerup out of the same tournament.

For this winner, Harrison took a handoff from twin brother Andrew in the corner and dribbled three times to the top left of the arc. He was standing a good 3 feet behind the line when he elevated over Caris LeVert and took a bit of contact on the hand from the Michigan guard as he shot. No matter. The ball rattled in.

Aaron Harrison had 12 points on four 3-pointers over the last 8:05 and was Calipari's obvious choice to take the winner.

"I've been around guys who make these kind of plays," Calipari said. "I've always said, 'You cannot be afraid to miss.' He's not afraid to miss. That's the whole thing about making those kind of plays. And if he does miss, he's going to shoot it again."

Freshman Marcus Lee, starting in place of injured Willie Cauley-Stein, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds for UK.

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