This is why you have two Harrisons. When one messes up, the other wins the game.
After Andrew Harrison nearly gifted Wisconsin a win in the 2014 Final Four, Aaron Harrison hit a three-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to give the Kentucky Wildcats a 74-73 victory over the Badgers to earn a place in the national championship:
This is the 12th time the Wildcats have reached the national championship, tied for the most in history, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Not including vacated games, Kentucky's 12 title game appearances are tied with UCLA for the most all-time.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 6, 2014
Traevon Jackson had a chance to win the game at the buzzer for Wisconsin, but his shot banked off the front rim.
It was a shot before that that Jackson will rue the most.
With one second on the shot clock and 16.4 seconds on the game clock, Andrew Harrison fouled Jackson on a three-point attempt.
As CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander said, it was a major break for the Badgers:
What an absolute BAILOUT.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) April 6, 2014
Kentucky had been biting on pump fakes all game, and Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde correctly pointed out that it came back to haunt them here:
And the pump fake gets Andrew Harrison at the worst possible time. Wow. Jackson big in the clutch again.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 6, 2014
Jackson missed the first of his three free throws, which was coincidentally the first Wisconsin had missed all night as a team, before knocking down the next two. Little did the Badgers know, that one miss would play such a huge role in the final outcome.
Aaron Harrison hitting a key three-pointer from the left wing is nothing new, as Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com's shot-by-shot comparison of his winner against Wisconsin with his winner against the Michigan Wolverines in the Elite Eight indicates:
Aaron Harrison is a bad man - pic.twitter.com/DLDwFFMZHC— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) April 6, 2014
After the game, Harrison remained remarkably composed given the circumstances, per The Associated Press:
Aaron Harrison: "I hit a big shot and I'm happy for my teammates. I'm glad we won."— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) April 6, 2014
Wisconsin's Sam Dekker was gracious in defeat, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Courier-Journal:
Wisconsin's Sam Dekker: "Aaron has been doing that all tournament. He's got that clutch gene. Props to him for hitting that shot".— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) April 6, 2014
Harrison may have finished the game with just eight points, but he only needed three to win the game.
That shot was a fitting conclusion to what had been a great battle.
Wisconsin couldn't have started the game any better. Even though Frank Kaminsky had two first-half points, the Badgers never trailed in the final 15 minutes before halftime, building a 40-36 lead. They did a great job of working the ball around the perimeter and finding open shooters.
Julius Randle was slowed by an injury for parts of the first half after rolling his ankle, per CBS Sports' Eye on College Basketball:
Per @tracywolfson, Julius Randle told trainer "I just rolled it." Injured right foot— Eye on College BBall (@EyeOnCBB) April 6, 2014
Without Willie Cauley-Stein in the lineup, Dakari Johnson was spending a lot of time on the floor and exerting a ton of energy. That, in turn, forced Kentucky to stack more defenders inside when Wisconsin tried to work the ball into the post, which meant Badgers shooters were getting open looks from three-point range.
It was all a vicious cycle for the Wildcats.
Freshman guard Bronson Koenig was the biggest benefactor, per BTN.com's Sean Merriman:
Bronson Koenig has 11 first half points on 4-of-9 shooting. He's never taken more than 7 shots in a single game before tonight.— Sean Merriman (@BTNSean) April 6, 2014
Kentucky should've considered itself lucky that it was only down four points going into the second half. Although, Wisconsin's free-throw and turnover numbers looked unsustainable, per CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel:
Wisconsin is 14-of-14 on FTs, and has just two turnovers. I think it's why they're winning.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) April 6, 2014
The second half was all about one team going on a run and the other team reacting. Wisconsin would get the edge, then Kentucky clawed its way back. When the Wildcats looked to be in the driver's seat, the Badgers hit a clutch three-pointer.
It played out like a game of musical chairs. The question was which team would be left standing when the music stopped.
On the heels of a 15-0 run, the Wildcats jumped out to a 51-43 lead with 15:33 left in the game. It was such a 180 from how the game had unfolded up to that point. Everything was going in Kentucky's favor.
Forde credited the turnaround to Kentucky's work on the glass:
Kentucky doing what Kentucky does, crush teams on the glass. Give them second chances and you will lose.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 6, 2014
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller used a great analogy to characterize what was happening:
Kentucky is Johnny Manziel. Wisconsin is Aaron Murray.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 6, 2014
By this stage of the contest, it looked like Wisconsin would be swept up in a blue-and-white tidal wave. An alley-oop from Andrew Harrison to Marcus Lee brought the house down at AT&T Stadium:
The Badgers weren't dead, yet. Playing the role of unheralded star this time for Wisconsin was junior forward Duje Dukan, who scored eight points in a three-minute span to give his team a 56-55 lead with 11:52 to go.
In the last 37 games, Duje Dukan's high is seven points. He has scored eight points in the last three minutes.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) April 6, 2014
Bo Ryan's team did a great job of withstanding Kentucky's onslaught and remaining composed enough to answer before the hole became too deep to dig out of, according to Forde:
Strong regroup by Wisconsin. This thing was getting out of hand and Badgers wouldn't let it happen.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 6, 2014
Of course, Kentucky made sure to save one last run for the end of the game.
The Wildcats will play Connecticut in the national championship. With Kentucky's No. 8 seed and the Huskies' No. 7 seed, it's the lowest combination of seeds ever in the national championship.
While Kentucky arguably has the edge talent-wise, Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels are playing out of their minds at the moment. It should be a great national championship.