Sometimes things just click for certain teams, and there’s not much to explain. Kentucky continue knocking off last year’s Final Four teams, beating Michigan 75-72 with a game winning 3-pointer from Aaron Harrison to cap off another big performance from Julius Randle.
After a rough January and February, Calipari and his players have gotten things together in March. A team that some talked about as a 40-0 team before the season began became the poster child of how not to build a team through ones and done players before the conference tournament began. Since then, this is once again a talented bunch, who despite their #8 seed are underdogs against no one, including Wisconsin who they play next.
Harrison might have been the one to pull off the game winning heroic shot, but it was Julius Randle with another double double of 16 points and 11 rebounds that made all the difference for the Wildcats. It is his 24th double double this season, putting him second on the all-time list of Freshman, trailing Michael Beasley who had 28 in his one year with Kansas State. With Randle on the floor for 32 minutes, Kentucky were outscoring Michigan by 13 points.
Kentucky is now the fifth team to beat three top-4 seeds en route to the Final Four, and also becoming the first All-Freshman lineup since the Fab Five in 1992 to make it that far. As a program, it is the 16th Final Four they’ve gone to, trailing UCLA (17) and North Carolina (18).
Kentucky also did a good job defensively on Michigan, making it quite difficult for them to get their jump shooting rhythm going. Michigan shot only 37.6% from outside the paint and made only 7 3-pointers, almost four less than their average through the tournament, settling for only 25 points from outside the paint, the team’s lowest in their last 11 tournament games. They didn’t do too badly when going into the paint, with Stauskas consistently getting to the line and finishing with 24 points, but struggling to create a shooting streak or stopping the Wildcats in the paint when Randle was on the floor proved to be their demise.
But it comes back to Harrison, finishing with 12 points, who will be the most remembered figure from this day. He took a shot from NBA range, with a hand in his face. He didn’t go off into crazy celebrations, because Michigan still had time for a desperation shot that Stauskas attempted to make without anything coming from it. Then it was time for everyone to jump on Harrison and celebrate a win that not a lot of people saw coming when the tournament began.
I’ve been around guys who make these kind of plays. I’ve always said, ‘You cannot be afraid to miss.’ He’s not afraid to miss. That’s the whole thing about making those kind of plays. And if he does miss, he’s going to shoot it again. We’re going to go back and practice, go back and see if we can get better between now and the Final Four. These guys aren’t real happy about it, but we are.