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NCAA Tournament: Kentucky holds off Princeton 59-57

Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, right, battles Princeton’s Brendan Connolly. The Wildcats, trailing by five with 11 minutes remaining, went to a bigger lineup and rallied, getting big games from two upperclassmen.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, right, battles Princeton’s Brendan Connolly. The Wildcats, trailing by five with 11 minutes remaining, went to a bigger lineup and rallied, getting big games from two upperclassmen.

TAMPA — For 39 minutes and 58 seconds, Kentucky guard Brandon Knight could not put the ball in the basket.

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He missed (clang!) deep behind the three-point circle, he missed (bonk!) short-range jumpers and every shot (thud!) in between, going 0-for-7 and earning a seat on the bench during the final minute of Thursday's second-round NCAA Tournament game against 13th-seeded Princeton at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I'll be honest, I thought he had made one shot. I didn't think he was like an 0-fer," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "But even that being said, he's a winner.

"He's not afraid to make a play. Guys like him aren't afraid to miss."

With the game on the line, Knight made his only basket count the most.

Knight finally scored a driving layup with two seconds remaining to lift Kentucky to a 59-57 win over upset-minded Princeton.

Instead of the Tigers (25-7) completely shutting down Kentucky's big-shot freshman, Knight took advantage of a switch on defense and beat Ivy League defensive player of the year Kareem Maddox to the rim, banking the shot in.

"If we lose that game, the season's over," Knight said. "I would have been happy as long as we won, no matter who hit the shot. I was just fortunate enough to be in that situation to help my team get that win."

Fellow fab freshmen Terrence Jones had 10 points and Doron Lamb added seven. The Wildcats got big contributions from a pair of upperclassmen — Josh Harrellson (15 points, 10 rebounds, four steals) and Darius Miller (17 points, four rebounds, three assists) — to advance to Saturday's third-round game against West Virginia.

After Princeton took a five-point lead with 11 minutes remaining, the Wildcats went with a bigger lineup and led 55-51 on Harrellson's putback with 3:58 remaining.

Maddox hit a tough jumper and guard Dan Mavraides hit a shot fading away to tie the score with 36 seconds remaining.

"We prepared this whole week to beat these guys, and you know, our team believed that we could do it," Maddox said. "I don't know if there was one moment where the switch kind of flipped, but I just think we knew what kind of team we had, and we knew we could compete."

Calipari called time out and put Knight back in the game and the ball in his hands.

"I think it was a difficulty 10 layup," Mavraides said. "Kareem is our longest, biggest defender. There's no one else I'd rather have on him driving the basket in a late-game situation. He made the one that counted. It was a great shot. You've got to tip your hat to him."

NCAA Tournament: Kentucky holds off Princeton 59-57 03/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 10:36pm]

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