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Kentucky ends Wisconsin’s season

Marques Eversoll , Sports Editor, Commentary
April 8, 2014
Filed under Sports, Top Stories

Kentucky freshman Aaron Harrison hit a game-winning triple in the closing seconds for the second straight game, punching the Kentucky Wildcats’ ticket to the National Championship and putting an end to Wisconsin’s season April 5 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

With the score tied at 71 and the shot clock winding down, Wisconsin junior Traevon Jackson fired up a three-pointer with 16.4 seconds on the clock. Harrison’s twin brother, Andrew, jumped into Jackson on the shot, and Jackson was awarded three free throws. Jackson missed the first– Wisconsin’s only missed free throw of the game–made the next two, and Kentucky gained possession, trailing 73-71.

From there, Andrew Harrison passed to Aaron Harrison on the left wing as the closing seconds were ticking away. Wisconsin junior Josh Gasser closely defended with his right arm extended, but Aaron Harrison pulled up from NBA range and buried the three-point jumper to give Kentucky the lead.

‘“Coach said he wanted me to take the shot,” Aaron Harrison said. “My teammates have confidence in me, and I just fed off that.”

Still with 5.7 seconds on the clock, the Badgers called a timeout. Jackson caught the in-bounds pass and dribbled down the court. Jackson threw up a last-second heave from just inside the three-point arc. The ball went off the backboard, hit the rim and bounced out.

A stampede of blue jerseys buried Aaron Harrison at center court, as the Wildcats were moving on to the National Championship against Connecticut.

“He has that clutch gene,’’ Wisconsin sophomore Sam Dekker said of Aaron Harrison.

Along with hitting game winners against Wisconsin the Final Four and Michigan in the Elight Eight, Aaron Harrison also made the go-ahead three with less than a minute remaining against Louisville in the regional semifinal.

“You can’t be scared to miss,” He said. “And you want to be that guy that wants to take the big shots.”

Aaron Harrison didn’t flinch against Wisconsin, despite not attempting a single shot behind the arc before what would be the game-winner.

Gasser had defended Aaron Harrison for most of the game, but the Kentucky freshman simply made a play once again when his team needed it most.

“’He was pretty deep out there,’’ Gasser said. “He hadn’t really looked to pull up for a shot the entire game. I saw him start to rise up, and I tried to contest the best I could. I thought I did a good job, but he made another good shot.’’

Andrew Harrison said his brother has a knack for making the big shot.

“He was smiling, like he knew he was going to make it,’’ Andrew Harrison said of his twin brother. ‘“He’s a big-time player. I’ve never seen anything like it.’’

At halftime, the Badgers clung to a 40-36 lead. Dekker connected on a three-point jumper in the first minute of the second half before Kentucky went on a 15-0 run over the next four minutes.

But despite trailing by eight after Kentucky freshman James Young hit a pair of free throws, the Badgers didn’t back down. Wisconsin junior Duje Dukan and senior Ben Brust powered a two-man 13-4 run to regain the lead with 11:51 to play.

From that point, Jackson would score nine of his 12 points in the final 11 minutes of the game. His only downfall was missing the first of three free throws in the closing seconds–a miss that would prove to be the deciding factor in Wisconsin’s one-point loss.

Jackson had a turbulent game for the Badgers, as he picked up his second foul with 11:53 remaining in the first half. Jackson was forced to spent the rest of the first half on the bench, making way to freshman Bronson Koenig, who answered the call and scored 11 points in the first half.

But Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan went back to Jackson to start the second half at point guard. Jackson paced the Badgers’ offense throughout the final 20 minutes, and his final shot was barely off the mark.

“That literally missed by about an inch,” Kerr said of Jackson’s shot on the television broadcast. “He’s banking his shot all the way and it’s just an inch long.”

For Wisconsin, Jackson’s potential game winner was just inches from finding a place in Badgers’ lore. For Kentucky, Aaron Harrison’s game winner was his third in this tournament alone. And it earned his Wildcats a trip to the National Championship.