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Kentucky's season ends in NIT opener

MOON, Pa. — A down season for defending national champion Kentucky ended with one final disappointment.

Mike McFadden hit two free throws with 8.7 seconds left and Robert Morris stunned Kentucky 59-57 in the opening round of the NIT on Tuesday night, sending the disjointed Wildcats into an offseason of uncertainty less than a year after they cut down the nets in New Orleans.

"This is humbling," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They think we're supposed to win 30 a year, 35 a year, go to the Final Four, win a national title."

Not this time. Not even close.

The eighth-seeded Colonials (24-10) led almost the entire way, never blinking in a rare visit from one of college basketball's Goliaths. Then again, this isn't the same Kentucky team that roared through the NCAAs behind Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

This batch of Wildcats (21-12) hasn't been the same since center Nerlens Noel went down with a devastating knee injury. Kentucky lost six of its final 10 games, the last one coming just a couple of 3-pointers away from the house Calipari grew up in.

"This is a shot in the arm for (Robert Morris), and they deserve to win the game," Calipari said. "If we'd have won at the buzzer, it would have been a shame."

The top-seeded Wildcats came close. Calipari opted not to call timeout after McFadden's second free throw, but Kyle Wiltjer's 3-point try before the buzzer bounced off the rim, sending hundreds of students onto the court following the biggest win in Robert Morris history.

The triumph took some of the pain out of the end of the Colonials' regular season. Robert Morris cruised to the Northeastern Conference title but lost to Mount St. Mary's in the conference tournament. That dashed the Colonials' hopes of making the NCAA Tournament, though the chance to play Kentucky hardly felt like a letdown.

"It's probably the greatest consolation prize you can possibly have," coach Andy Toole said.

'CANES HONORED: Miami guard Shane Larkin was the ACC coaches' choice as player of the year. Jim Larranaga won the Henry Iba national coach of the year award, as voted by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Cal State Northridge: Bobby Braswell is out as coach after 17 years that included three 20-win seasons and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

MISSOURI-Kansas City: Louisville assistant Kareem Richardson was hired as coach of a program that has never qualified for the NCAA postseason and is leaving the Summit League for the Western Athletic Conference next season.

WOMEN: Jim Foster, who won 783 games at St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and the past 11 years at Ohio State, will not return as Buckeyes coach.

Kentucky's season ends in NIT opener 03/19/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 1:03am]
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