INDIANAPOLIS -- OK, so maybe they’re not the quickest learners. Still, the kids at Kentucky figured out Louisville just in time.
Aaron Harrison hit a three-pointer for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds left and Julius Randle made a pair of clutch free throws to lift the fantastic freshman of Kentucky to a 74-69 victory over their in-state rivals.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) led for a total of 65 seconds in this Midwest Regional semifinal. They’ll play Michigan on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four. The Wolverines defeated Tennessee, 73-71, in the other regional semifinal on Friday.
Few expected a run this deep as this season played out and Kentucky’s five freshmen starters struggled to play a team game. But they’ve been learning slowly. Trailing by seven with 4 1/2 minutes left, things kicked in again.
Actually, it was a sophomore, Alex Poythress, who scored five points in a 7-0 run that tied the score at 66 inside of two minutes left. Then, it was the Kentucky freshmen who showed all the poise against the defending national champs, led by seniors Russ Smith (23 points) and Luke Hancock (19).
Harrison took a pass from Julius Randle and spotted up in the corner for the go-ahead shot. Both finished with 15 points, as did yet another freshman starter, 7-foot center Dakari Johnson.
On the next possession, Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear got fouled. The 71% career free-throw shooter missed the first. Randle came down and made two free throws.
Smith missed a tough look at a three-pointer on the next possession and a few seconds later, the Wildcats were chest bumping and Coach John Calipari was pumping his fists to a loud stadium full of blue.