BOZICH | Three Shining Moments For Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Harrison is Reggie Jackson in the World Series, Joe Montana in the Super Bowl and Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals.
Every time Harrison cocks his right arm and takes a jump shot, it becomes an unforgettable moment. Every time he completes his textbook follow through, another really good college basketball opponent exits the NCAA Tournament, beaten by Kentucky.
Every time he shoots when it matters, Harrison scores – and Kentucky bounces even closer to the school's ninth NCAA title.
One shining moment? Try three shining moments.
Has anybody ever delivered back-to-back-to-back shots like Aaron Harrison has delivered in Kentucky's jarring run to the NCAA championship game against Connecticut Monday night?
I can't give you a name.
Not Kemba Walker. Not Carmelo Anthony. Not Christian Laettner.
"He's cold-blooded," said UK center Willie Cauley-Stein. "He's got ice in his veins.
"To do that twice in a row from the same spot in the same situation, this time down by two to hit a three like that is nuts. I can't even tell you how crazy it is."
Rick Pitino, John Beilein and now Bo Ryan can tell you how crazy it is. And how painful.
From the corner against Louisville with 39 seconds to play to put Kentucky ahead to stay in the Sweet Sixteen.
From the left wing against Michigan with 2.6 seconds to play to win the Midwest Regional. With a Michigan defender flying towards his face.
From essentially the same spot against Wisconsin Saturday night with 5.7 seconds to play to beat Wisconsin, 74-73, in the national semifinals. With Josh Gasser of Wisconsin flying towards his face.
"You can't be scared to miss and you want to be the guy that wants to take the big shot," Aaron Harrison said.
"It's just the feeling that I want to be the one to take the shot, and I'm not afraid to miss the shot so as long as you're not afraid to miss, I think you have a good chance of making it."
The U of L shot came with plenty of time to recover. The Michigan shot came during a tied game with a defender inches from Harrison's nostrils.
This was different. This shot came with Kentucky trailing by two points after the Wildcats had given back every inch of an eight-point lead in the second half.
This shot was the season. He only scored eight points. He only took one three – the game-winner.
"I don't know about magical," Aaron Harrison said. "We all just fight."
James Young started the game with a three for Kentucky. It was the only three the Wildcats would make until you know who made his. Wisconsin kept making free throws and three-pointers. The Badgers constructed a four-point halftime lead that Wisconsin stretched to 43-36 on their first possession in the second half.
Kentucky scored 15 straight points. Wisconsin steadied and went back ahead. The two teams were just getting started.
Kentucky did not lead again until Alex Poythress converted a lob pass from Andrew Harrison with 2:16 to play.
Wisconsin was not finished. Not at all. A Frank Kaminsky layup and two free throws by Traevon Jackson made it 73-71 Badgers. Kentucky had 16.4 seconds to win another game at the wire, their fifth straight NCAA Tournament game decided by seven points or less.
Andrew Harrison started downcourt with the basketball, but all 79,444 fans in AT&T Stadium understood who was taking the shot.
"If we need a shot, he's there for us," UK forward Alex Poythress said.
They needed a shot. The ball went from Andrew Harrison to Dakari Johnson and then back to Andrew, who had just missed a three-pointer on the Wildcats' previous possession.
"I had no idea what he was going to do," UK freshman Marcus Lee said. "That was that brother-to-brother telepathy."
"He just happened to be there," Andrew Harrison said. "I just give him the ball and get out of the way."
It was the best decision Andrew Harrison made all night. Give up the ball. Enjoy the spectacle.
This time his twin launched the game-winner with 5.7 seconds to play. The guys on the Kentucky bench swear that they saw Aaron Harrison smile wildly before he set his feet, squared his shoulders and released the shot.
Or is it, The Shot?
Said Lee, "We noticed that and said, ‘Why is he smiling? He's going to do it again.' He's got a super amount of confidence in his shot. We all do now."
Aaron Harrison said he was not certain the ball was going in, but everybody on the Kentucky bench was.
"I can't even tell you what was going through my head," Cauley-Stein said. "It's on camera. I was going stupid crazy because I didn't even care."
"I guess I'm just blessed," Aaron Harrison said.
The same way Michael Jordan, Joe Montana and Reggie Jackson were blessed. And on his way to a national championship moment against Connecticut.
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