ARLINGTON, Texas – No, this was not an instant replay, though it certainly is turning into a highlight reel Kentucky and Aaron Harrison could get used to watching over and over again.
Harrison took a pass from his twin brother, Andrew, spotted up from NBA range and watched the ball rattle in for the lead with 5.7 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to a 74-73 victory Saturday night over Wisconsin in the Final Four.
“You can’t be scared to miss, and you want to be that guy that wants to take the big shots,” Aaron Harrison said.
It’s the third straight game the Kentucky freshman has made a 3 for the go-ahead points in this magical ride for the Wildcats (29-10), and the second straight time the pass has come from his brother for a shot from the left center of the arc.
Traevon Jackson had a last-second shot to try to beat the Wildcats, but the desperation jumper rimmed out and once again Harrison found himself at the bottom of a dog pile at center court.
Eighth-seeded Kentucky will play seventh-seeded UConn in the final Monday – the highest seed total to play for the title since they started putting numbers by the names back in 1979.
“I know how good they are, but I don’t know how they play,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of his next opponent.
Wisconsin (30-8) set a Final Four record by going 95 percent from the free-throw line – 19 for 20. But it was that one miss that cost the Badgers. Jackson got Andrew Harrison to jump into him while attempting a 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left. His first free throw rimmed out, and – after he made the next two – Wisconsin had a 73-71 lead and Kentucky had the ball.
Any doubt where it was going?
Against Louisville in the regional semifinal, Aaron Harrison was open in the corner when Julius Randle found him. He hit the go-ahead 3 with 39.1 seconds left on the way to a 74-69 win. Two nights later, there were 2.3 seconds on the clock and Harrison was a few steps over to the left when he took the pass from his brother. The ball clanged in and he trotted backward and pumped his hands in the air.
A few minutes later, he was hugging his mom in the stands.
“It never comes down to just one possession,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “It was right there for them, it’s just the other team had one possession better.”
James Young led Kentucky with 17 points and Randle finished with 16, but only five boards to snap his string of three straight double-doubles.
But Kentucky had an answer for Wisconsin’s do-everything 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky, who was held to eight points and five rebounds.
Ben Brust and Sam Dekker had 15 each for the Badgers, who came up a game short of their first appearance in the final since 1941.
Instead, it’s Kentucky going for its ninth national title and second in three years, with an almost completely rebuilt roster from 2012. It’s the way Calipari does it, like it or not.
His star during this run: Aaron Harrison, who has first-round potential, though it won’t be his final numbers in this game – eight points, three rebounds – that will impress the scouts as much as his final shot.