ARLINGTON, Texas - It doesn't get much bigger than nailing a 3-point shot in the final seconds to send your team to the Final Four. At least, it shouldn't get much bigger than that.
For Kentucky's Aaron Harrison, the 3-point shot he hit with 5.7 seconds left Saturday night at AT&T Stadium made last week's game-winner suffer miserably by comparison.
With 79,444 fans in the building, it was the biggest attendance ever for a Division I men's basketball game.
A week ago, Kentucky was tied with Michigan, so a miss most likely would have sent the game into overtime. This time Kentucky trailed Wisconsin by two points.
And this time, Aaron's twin brother, Andrew, had not only missed an open shot at the 50-second mark with the game tied, he had proceeded to foul Traevon Jackson (son of former Mavericks guard Jim Jackson) on a 3-point try with 15 seconds to go.
After Jackson made two of the three foul shots, Andrew Harrison penetrated to the basket but found nowhere to go. The ball eventually found his brother far out on the left wing.
Boom. Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73.
An eight seed (Kentucky) will face a seven seed (Connecticut) tonight in a championship game no one could have anticipated.
"It was tough. I played horrible," Andrew Harrison said. "I missed that shot and then I got that foul and I was really feeling bad. Aaron told me to keep my head up, that we were going to win the game.
"I didn't believe him."
It's hard not to believe in Kentucky now
The Wildcats got this tournament started by knocking off a rare unbeaten team (Wichita State) on the first weekend. They followed with wins over last year's national champ (Louisville) and runner-up (Michigan), making Kentucky the first team ever to turn that trick.
The first team to reach the Final Four with five freshman starters since Michigan's Fab Five in 1992, the Wildcats have the opportunity to do what that Chris Webber-Jalen Rose-Juwan Howard team never could.
Win it all.
Although Kentucky and Big Blue Nation will not be terribly tolerant of a loss here tonight, the late-game heroics of the Texas-born Harrison will be the stuff of legend regardless. Here's the funny part.
This Kentucky team hates to shoot threes.
The favored weapon of so many college teams is one the Wildcats sometimes refuse to pull from their holster. James Young, who started the game on fire to get Kentucky going, hit a three to open the scoring.
Between his shot and Aaron's more than 39 minutes of clock time later, Kentucky did not make another 3-pointer. The Wildcats tried only three more times. Wisconsin was respectful if not quite fearful of the Wildcats' speed and power and their desire - fueled by Andrew Harrison at the point - to get inside the paint on practically every possession.
Wisconsin dared Kentucky to shoot open threes. And for 40 minutes, the Wildcats went 2 for 5. Had they gone 1 for 5, the Badgers would be in the national championship.
The difference in the two teams?
With Kentucky hounding 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky through a variety of double teams and holding him to eight points (20 fewer than he scored last Sunday against No. 1 seed Arizona), Wisconsin's guards and perimeter players took dead aim from long range and nearly won the game in that fashion.
The Badgers hit eight of 20 3-point tries. But Wisconsin made just 15 baskets from inside the arc. Kentucky made 27.
The Wildcats won the dunk contest going away and outscored Wisconsin 46-24 in the paint.
Still, it was a frustrating evening for Andrew Harrison, whose drives almost invariably ended in contact - some initiated by him, some by the physical defenders - but only once resulted in a trip to the foul line. He finished with nine points on 4-of-14 shooting (28.6 percent) while the rest of the Wildcats shot nearly 57 percent (25 for 44).
"Sometimes I have a bad game and he helps me, and sometimes he has a bad game and I help him," Aaron said. "It's not one-sided."
But neither Harrison has ever helped the other win a Final Four game.
As for Kentucky coach John Calipari, he never thought about using a timeout to put his imprint on the final play. He said he didn't want to get Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan's expertise involved in the process. Besides, when Jackson missed that first free throw, Calipari called Andrew over to tell him to drive first but if nothing was there, to get the ball to his brother.
With 5.7 seconds left, Aaron Harrison delivered his team into the championship despite the customarily strong Wisconsin defense from guard Josh Gasser.
Maybe his brother didn't believe. Feels like it's hard not to now.
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