Kentucky, Connecticut to play for NCAA championship

NCAA Tournament - File

So it comes down to Kentucky and Connecticut.

With just seconds left on the clock, Kentucky freshman Aaron Harrison sank a “ridiculous” three-pointer to give the Wildcats a 74-73 win over Wisconsin in the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Saturday night. Kentucky will face Connecticut in Monday’s title game, after the Huskies came back to oust top-seeded Florida 63-53 earlier Saturday.

Neither team was expected to make it this far. Kentucky was a No. 8 seed in its region, while Connecticut was No. 7.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Wisconsin could have easily come out on top before the late toss by Harrison, who has hit two other key long baskets in the tournament.

“They did everything they were supposed to do to win the game, and then we made a ridiculous shot,” he said at a postgame press conference. “We hung on and so did Wisconsin. It was a heck of a game.”

Calipari praised his freshman-laden team for coming back from a 40-36 halftime deficit to go on a 15-0 run. “When we’re down … they grow hair on their necks,” he said. Kentucky will feature the first all-freshman starting lineup in the national championship game since the 1992 Michigan team nicknamed “The Fab Five.”

After Harrison’s three-pointer, Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson got off one last shot as time expired — but it missed the goal.

“I felt pretty good that he got to that spot where he’s hit shots before,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “It just didn’t go.”

Attendance was a record 79,444 Saturday night at the Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the championship game will also be played. The turnout tops the previous mark of 78,129, according to the NCAA March Madness Twitter feed.

Connecticut rebounds to oust Florida

In Saturday’s first game, Florida held a 12-point lead over Connecticut midway through the first half. But the Huskies roared back, taking a slight lead at the half and expanding the bulge early in the second half.

“They showed us some true grit and toughness,” Connecticut coach Kevin OIlie said in the postgame press conference.

Shabazz Napier said he and his teammates didn’t panic when they trailed 16-4 early in the game.

“We’ve been through a lot of dogfights and continue to believe in each other,” he said.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said, “Once they got their defense set I think we had a hard time handling their pressure.”

Scottie Wilbekin of Florida, the player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, only scored four points in the contest.

“On offense, we couldn’t get anything going,” he said.

By Ralph Ellis and Matt Smith



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