CRAWFORD | Drill, baby, drill: Harrison's heroics have UK on doorstep of history
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Well, now we know who really shot J.R.
It was Aaron Harrison from the left wing.
In oil country, they're fond of this little saying: Drill, baby, drill. Harrison, with just under six seconds left in Saturday night's NCAA semifinal against Wisconsin, did it again. He drilled a three-pointer with the University of Kentucky down two, and it turned out to be the game winner in a 74-73 classic that sends the Wildcats into the NCAA Championship game just outside of Dallas, Texas.
Just like he did against Michigan. Just like he did against Louisville.
This kid has ticked off more people than the IRS. But let it be said here, before anything else is said, there is only one proper response to a player — of any age — who makes those three shots against those three opponents in those three games.
Anything else, just go look at yourself in the mirror and see what you've become. Really.
I checked with a statistics professor to calculate the probability, before the NCAA Tournament, of Aaron Harrison hitting three such shots to win three consecutive NCAA Tournament games. He crunched the numbers, and came up with this: "No (bleeping) way."
Historical perspective is difficult. Kentucky is the first team ever to win four straight NCAA Tournament games by five points or fewer. Usually, you play with fire that often, you're going to get burned.
The only thing burning now are the couches of Kentucky. When this state became West Virginia, I'm not sure. Never have so many couches given their lives for one man. But what are outdated home furnishings for if not for fuel to the fire after game-winning shots against Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin?
Words to describe it are difficult, I'm telling you. There's little context that can do it justice. Then you begin to realize, context is difficult because there is no context. What this freshman from Texas is doing is, from an NCAA Tournament perspective, unprecedented.
"I'm blessed," Harrison told TBS right after the game.
That's not the half of it.
But Harrison is not the whole story.
Somewhere before the print gets too fine, there should be a mention of Alex Poythress. If there's a seasoned hand on the team at this point, this sophomore is it. And he's playing even beyond those years.
Kentucky has executed in the final five minutes of games like no tournament team I can remember. Poythress started off that five-minute run in this game with a monstrous slam that sent a clear message: "We're serious from here on."
Wisconsin blinked. It came up empty on its first four possessions after the five-minute mark. It still had a shot late, but while UK's freshman guard drained his three-pointer, Wisconsin missed its chance to make history at the buzzer.
The Badgers went 19 of 20 from the free-throw line. The one that didn't go turned out to be costly.
But if you have to be perfect just to tie a team, how good is the team you're playing?
The answer is coming into clear focus: Very good.
"I'll tell you, late in the game they want to win," UK coach John Calipari said of his players. "Different guys are making plays. Then you got Aaron, the assassin, making the shot that is the dagger shot."
And you have Calipari making the right moves. His use of timeouts in this tournament is worth further study. But again, Saturday night, Wisconsin made a three-pointer coming out of halftime and Calipari immediately didn't like the way his team looked, and called a timeout, less than a minute into the half.
"Basically they didn't listen to me at halftime," Calipari said. "The first play the guy takes a bad shot, and then we leave and give up a three. I just said, Was anybody even paying attention to anything I said at halftime? And that's like, Come on, now, we're going to have to fight and play and concentrate and be focused."
The Wildcats responded with a 15-0 run. Then late, with his team down two and with the ball, Calipari called no timeout. That's when Andrew Harrison drove underneath and found his brother in his spot for the game-winner. Calipari already had discussed it with Aaron, while Wisconsin was shooting free throws, when he knew he only needed a two to tie.
"I told him, Andrew, if you can get a layup or get it to Dakari (Johnson), do that; if not, you got your brother.," Calipari said. "When we huddled (during a stoppage in play for a video review), I said, We're going at Aaron, boys, anybody got a problem with that? Now, he wasn't open. It went to Dakari. Dakari threw it to (Andrew), and (Andrew) was smart enough to say, I'm going to give it to you. It was NBA three. I saw it on the TV after. It was a NBA three contested and he made it. It's crazy that he does it."
This whole thing is crazy.
Or, as they say in the movies, it's just crazy enough to work. Some dude in Berea got a UK National Champions 2014 tattoo before the tournament and everybody thought he was crazy. Now, he's two days away from people begging him to pick their Derby winner and lottery numbers.
Kentucky will face Connecticut Monday night for a chance at the school's ninth national championship. None of them will have been quite like this one.
These freshmen who are winning these games aren't old enough to legally drink. After the season they've had, with the tournament run they've gone on, if they win one more game, this state may never stop. The party, certainly, will continue long after the couch carcasses have been carried off by the garbage men. Come to think of it, the party may rage on even if they don't win. For once, Kentucky is partying like an eight-seed — with its eyes on No. 9.
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