Kentucky Basketball: Ranking the Best Moments of Wildcats' 2014 Final Four Run
While the 2013-14 regular season was a rocky one for Kentucky, the month of March has been nothing short of spectacular.
Whether it's been defeating a previously unbeaten team, upending its archrival or having players step up in an effort to make a run to the Final Four, this Wildcats team has changed its story. Just over a month ago Kentucky was looked at as drastic underachievers who would be lucky to win a game in the NCAA tournament.
There have been many memorable moments for Kentucky during the run, whether it's been a certain individual's game, a shot or a group effort during a defensive possession. Before it takes on Wisconsin Saturday to get into the national championship game, this slideshow will take a look at the five best moments of the Wildcats' 2014 Final Four run.
5. Andrew Harrison's Weird Free Throws
It may have been the oddest sight in NCAA tournament history. It also may have been the easiest way for a team to start the game with a lead.
Kansas State sophomore Brian Rohleder, who is a walk-on, was assessed a technical foul for a pregame dunk. There's an NCAA rule that prohibits dunking with less than 20 minutes until tip. Rohleder's dunk came at the 19:58 mark during pregame.
So before the ball was ever tipped, Andrew Harrison stepped to the free-throw line all by himself with the chance to give Kentucky the quickest lead in the history of the NCAA tournament. The first one was shaky to say the least, as Harrison's shot barely grazed the front of the rim.
However, Harrison calmly drilled the second free throw to give Kentucky a 1-0 lead before the game started. It could be looked at as a sign of things to come as the Wildcats went on to defeat Kansas State 56-49.
4. Defensively Ending the Streak
Was it a high-scoring game? Yes.
Did Cleanthony Early score 31 points for Wichita State? Yes.
However, a defensive play helped propel Kentucky to the Sweet 16 and upset the previously unbeaten Shockers? With just 3.2 seconds left to play, Wichita State inbounded the ball on Kentucky's side of the court trailing by two.
Fred VanVleet caught the pass, took a couple of dribbles and pulled up from behind the arc. The shot bounced harmlessly off the side of the rim and Kentucky began to celebrate.
What most people didn't see was the pressure put on VanVleet to rush his shot by Willie Cauley-Stein. The sophomore center challenged the shot with an outstretched arm that forced VanVleet to rush his shot just enough.
3. Alex Poythress Gets His Hug
James Young fouled out with over five-and-a-half minutes remaining in Kentucky's Sweet 16 game with the Wildcats trailing by seven points against archrival Louisville. It looked like, for the most part, Kentucky's season would be over. But then something happened. Or rather someone.
Alex Poythress showed up.
It shouldn't be such a big shock that a former McDonald's All-American and a player who averaged close to 14 points per game as a freshman made some plays. But that's not who Poythress is anymore. He's a dynamic athlete who has also shown the ability to be a lockdown defender for Kentucky.
Poythress went on a tear, scoring five points and getting a blocked shot during a 7-0 run for Kentucky that tied the game at 66 with 2:11 left. When Louisville called a timeout, Poythress was greeted at the bench with a gigantic smile and a hug from his head coach, John Calipari.
Poythress played just 14 minutes in the game but recorded six points and four rebounds. More importantly, the veteran of the team stepped up most when his team needed him.
2. America Meets Marcus Lee
It's kind of hard to forget about a McDonald's All-American who stands at 6'9" and was highly regarded on every recruiting website. But when you only played one minute in the NCAA tournament heading into an Elite Eight game, America might not know who you are.
America does get to know you, though, when you record 10 points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes of action to help send your team to the Final Four. That's exactly what Marcus Lee did against No. 2 Michigan last Sunday.
With no Cauley-Stein available and Kentucky falling victim to yet another slow start, Calipari turned to Lee for some energy. What he got was a pleasant surprise as Lee provided the spark that helped lead Kentucky back in the first half.
Lee came into the game and quickly used his length and height to get quick buckets, all on dunks, and provide a defensive presence that Kentucky was lacking early in the game.
1. Aaron Harrison's Twin Shots
Aaron Harrison hit arguably the most famous shot in the illustrious rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville when Julius Randle found him open in the corner for a deep shot to give the Wildcats a two-point lead.
On Sunday, Calipari went back to Aaron Harrison. With the game tied against Michigan, Andrew Harrison ran a dribble handoff to his twin brother.
Aaron then used a crossover dribble to create some space against defender Caris LeVert to pull up for a three that was well beyond NBA range. Harrison's high-arching shot went over the 6'6" LeVert's hand and directly into the net to send Kentucky to the Final Four.
There was no real reason as to why this was the play call, besides the fact that Harrison had hit three shots from behind the arc in the last seven minutes and there was a chance Michigan's defense would give him some space. The other reason could be summed up by fellow freshman Dakari Johnson, who credited Harrison's anatomy.
Needless to say Aaron Harrison has provided Big Blue Nation with the two most memorable images throughout this tournament. The only debate is which one the fans enjoy more, and my money is most of them would say the shot to send Louisville home.