Arlington, Texas – April 5, 2014 – Brendon D. Miller, East Kentucky Media –
Kentucky overcame Wisconsin 74 to 73 in the second national semi-final on Saturday night before a crowd of 79,444, the largest crowd ever to see a Division 1 college basketball game, in an electric AT&T Stadium. In its fourth “instant classic” in a row these young “tweaked” Wildcats did what they hadn’t done at any point during this season prior to the SEC tournament, but has now become common place, be clutch when it is time to be clutch on the grandest of stages. “Aaron’s been doing that all tournament” said Wisconsin’s Sam Decker afterward, “He’s got that clutch gene. And props to him for hitting that shot. . . He came through big for his team and put them ahead.”
Aaron Harrison is not alone. The “Clutch Gene” is present in each of these young CATS and they have now developed that gene and have come of age and are now young men who have nerves of steel and have become Stone Cold Killers in a strictly basketball sense. Succeed and Proceed is the rule of this group and they are doing things that we have not seen in Big Blue Nation before. Of Kentucky’s 74 points, 66 were scored by freshmen, the most in a Final Four game since the Fab Five in 1992 who had 61. The Fab Five were only that – five, these CATS played seven freshmen in an eight man rotation on Saturday night, with all seven playing double digit minutes. For teenagers, that is CLUTCH.
The usual suspects were there with the five starters. Mr. Big Shot, Aaron Harrison with is third game winning dagger from deep to get the CATS into Monday night’s Championship Game will be the highlight we all will remember, but his 36 turnover free minutes were huge. Julius Randle going for 16 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes and two huge free throws with 3:48 left, all after rolling his ankle earlier in the game. James Young putting up 17 points and five rebounds, and after being turnover prone during the season, committing only one turnover in 37 minutes. Dakari Johnson posting 10 p0ints and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes while helping hold Frank Kaminsky to eight points. Andrew Harrison with a steady nine points, four assists, and only two turnovers, with the biggest assist getting his brother the ball for the game winner. All CLUTCH.
The CATS’ path to Monday’s National Final has been laid by their bench. Without Willie Cauley- Stein, the performances of Marcus Lee and Dominque Hawkins during this run have been outstanding. Lee followed up his breakout performance in the Midwest Regional Final with two dunks in 10 minutes while also helping defensively on Kaminsky. Hawkins, the only Kentucky native playing significant minutes, followed up this defensive displays in regional games with zero turnovers in 11 minutes. For two guys who got limited minutes throughout the year, simply CLUTCH.
The one non-freshman has taken time to develop his gene, but it has arrived. Alex Poythress played 29 crucial minutes highlighted by two sequences in the final 5:00. With Wisconsin ahead 67 – 65 Poythress was called for goal tending after menacingly swatting away a Frank Kaminsky shot in the lane, putting the CATS down 69–65. The next possession, Poythress drove the lane with 4:45 and finished with an aggressive, emphatic two-handed slam that sent the crowd into a frenzy and brought momentum back to the CATS side. Then with 2:34 left, and the score tied at 69 and Wisconsin in possession, Ben Brust fumbled the ball in the lane and Poythress saved the ball back in to Randle while falling out of bounds. Poythress then ran the floor and was able to make a difficult, athletic layup to put the CATS up 71-69. Calipari said in his Thursday Press conference that if the CATS were to do something special this weekend, it would be with Poythress making a difference. Stepping up when you get called out, CLUTCH.
After the game this reporter shook Andrew Harrison, Sr.’s hand, the man who, along with Ms. Marian Harrison, is the source of the clutch gene for Aaron and Andrew, and he held up his index finger and said “One More”. Dad is clutch too. Lets hope Monday Night the “Clutch Gene” present in these CATS, will bring the Bluegrass State “One More” which will be National Championship number Nine.