Was there ever really any doubt? The Cats got their matchup and pulled off a super-tight one with Brandon Knight hitting a clutch jumper with 5.4 seconds remaining to punch their ticket to the Elite 8. They will face North Carolina on Sunday evening.
How important is this win for Coach Cal and the program? How important was that shot by Knight? I sure hope that we will see that replay over and over year in and year out! Now, on to the game….
Jared Sullinger who? Our man Josh Harrellson played 1-v-1 to perfection as Coach Cal opted to not double team OSU’s big man on campus. Harrellson finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Sullinger got his, 21 points and 16 rebounds, but it was the ability to collapse on the perimeter shooting of the Buckeyes that proved to be the difference in the game.
Charles Barkley said it in the post game, you have to give Coach Cal all the credit in the world for that move. Not only did it slow down the OSU attack, it forced the Buckeyes into their worst shooting performance of the season! Coming into the game they shot right around 50% from the floor, tonight just 19-58 for 32.8%. Now that is some defense.
With the Cats slowing down the pace of the game they found themselves in half court sets all night. All that was left to do was run our offense, and they did just that. Kentucky made their shots when they needed to, hit their free throws, and closed the game out with a set play. The Cats shot 45.8% from the field, only attempting 48 shots, hit 6 threes, and made 12-14 from the line.
In the first half the officials called it very tight on the Cats, most of the starters entered the locker room with 2 fouls a piece. The second half was a different story. The script was flipped and the calls started to fall the Cats way. The difference from the line was arguably the difference in the game as well, UK 12-14, OSU 16-22.
Coming into the game DeAndre Liggins was the defensive presence the Cats needed to slow down the Buckeyes attack. He not only lived up to that calling, he made some crucial baskets midway through the second half. Liggins finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Brandon Knight was the star of the game for hitting the final shot, but he failed to reach double figures for just the 3rd time this season. Knight was rattled all evening long by Aaron Craft, OSU’s heralded freshman. But, when it mattered most, Knight put the team on his back and didn’t disappoint.
In the end the Cats played intelligently, efficiently and won a game they should have. It’s on to Sunday at 5:05 to play North Carolina for a trip to the first final four in 14 years for the program. UNC beat Marquette handily to advance to the regional final.
UPDATE: With that final bucket for Brandon Knight he broke the freshman scoring record at Kentucky held by the #1 overall NBA draft pick, sir John Wall. How about them apples?
Now for the box score: