Final Four: Kentucky's Calipari and all his freshmen earn trip - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Final Four: Kentucky's Calipari and all his freshmen earn trip to North Texas

Posted: Updated:
Kentucky players celebrate after an NCAA Midwest Regional final college basketball tournament game against Michigan Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Indianapolis. Kentucky won 75-72 to advance to the Final Four. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Kentucky players celebrate after an NCAA Midwest Regional final college basketball tournament game against Michigan Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Indianapolis. Kentucky won 75-72 to advance to the Final Four. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The team pegged for 40-0 now has 30-10 in its sights.

Anybody at Kentucky disappointed?

The Wildcats and all those freshmen are headed to the Final Four — a trip to Big D courtesy of a big shot by Aaron Harrison that kept a late-season streak going only weeks after so much had seemed lost.

Harrison made a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left Sunday to lift eighth-seeded Kentucky to a 75-72 win over Michigan and send the Wildcats to the program's 16th Final Four.

"It's a process," coach John Calipari said. "Every year, it's a process. Some guys get it quicker than others. It took these guys a little longer, and it took me a little longer to figure them out."

But they figured it out just in time. Not in time to make good on the "40-0" boast that was printed on some T-shirts before the season began, but in plenty of time to make this a season to remember.

Harrison scored all 12 of his points on 3s over the last 8:05 and was Calipari's obvious choice to take the game-decider after Michigan had tied it at 72 with 31 seconds left.

He took a handoff from his twin brother, Andrew, dribbled three times to the top left of the arc and launched a shot over Michigan's Caris LeVert.

Harrison backpedaled slowly, almost expressionless, after ball hit twine. Teammates Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle chased him down.

"I was so excited, I kind of blacked out," Johnson said. "I didn't know what to think."

Michigan's Nik Stauskas missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, and then, it was Harrison's turn on the bottom of a dog pile. Make that a puppy pile. Eighth-seeded Kentucky is the first all-freshman starting lineup to make the Final Four since the Fab Five at Michigan in 1992.

The Wildcats (28-10) will play Wisconsin next Saturday outside of Dallas at AT&T Stadium. Two more wins and they'll have the school's ninth national title.

The second-seeded Wolverines (28-9) ended their season one win shy of a second straight Final Four.

"You're going to make them score over you," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I thought (LeVert) got his hand up. They did a good job on it. But he made a shot from deep."

What a ride this has been for this group of Wildcats, an all-new collection of McDonald's All-Americans who were touted as the team that could be perfect, then dismissed out of hand when the bad losses and bad basketball piled up in January and February.

Calipari got things turned around by March, and for the second straight game in the Midwest Regional, Harrison made the shot that gave the Wildcats the lead for good. On Friday, he made the key 3 in Kentucky's 74-69 win over Louisville. Kentucky is the first team to knock the defending champion and runner-up out of the same tournament.

"I've been around guys who make these kind of plays," Calipari said. "I've always said, 'You cannot be afraid to miss.' He's not afraid to miss. That's the whole thing about making those kind of plays. And if he does miss, he's going to shoot it again."

It wasn't all Harrison, of course.

While he was being shut down early, it was Marcus Lee — surprisingly — keeping the Wildcats in the game.

Lee, another of the McDonald's All-American freshmen on Calipari's roster, had scored a total of nine points since the beginning of January, relegated to the bench after an early season illness.

In this one, he got minutes that would have normally gone to the injured Willie Cauley-Stein, and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Eight of those points came on put-back dunks that were part of Kentucky's 18 offensive rebounds.

"He told the team I was going to have a big day," Lee said, when goaded by Calipari to tell reporters what the coach had said before the game. "Knowing us, none of us believed him."

Randle was a more predictable source for the Wildcats. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He's a Dallas kid and will play in the sport's biggest spectacle not far from home.

If that doesn't feel like hitting the lottery, well, a few weeks later, he probably will. Randle is considered lottery pick material if he decides to go to the NBA, as expected. Others could join him in the Association, the latest group of one-and-done Wildcats that Calipari has put together.

It was never as easy a ride as some hoped it might be. But the kids made it.

"We've just got a tough group of guys," Randle said. "That was the biggest thing, we just never let criticism get to us."

Follow Eddie Pells on Twitter @epells

  • Auburn University SportsMore>>

  • Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:33:03 GMT
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.More >>
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.
    More >>
  • CB Chris Westry commits to Auburn

    CB Chris Westry commits to Auburn

    Thursday, July 24 2014 2:22 PM EDT2014-07-24 18:22:20 GMT
    Auburn added some size to the future of it's defensive backfield.Cornerback Chris Westry of Oakleaf High School in Florida committed to be part of the Tigers recruiting class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 180 pound Westry is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.Oakleaf High School announced the commitment on it's twitter page,2015 DB Chris Westry has committed to Auburn #WarEagle --Oakleaf Football ?, July 24 Westry is the 18th commitment for Auburn's 2015 signing class.More >>
    Auburn added some size to the future of it's defensive backfield.Cornerback Chris Westry of Oakleaf High School in Florida committed to be part of the Tigers recruiting class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 180 pound Westry is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports.Oakleaf High School announced the commitment on it's twitter page,2015 DB Chris Westry has committed to Auburn #WarEagle --Oakleaf Football ?, July 24 Westry is the 18th commitment for Auburn's 2015 signing class.More >>
  • Josh Donaldson nominated for MLB Heart and Hustle Award

    Josh Donaldson nominated for MLB Heart and Hustle Award

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 6:37 PM EDT2014-07-23 22:37:43 GMT
    Josh Donaldson earned the Oakland A's Heart and Hustle Award. It's the second consecutive season Donaldson was chosen for the honor.More >>
    Josh Donaldson earned the Oakland A's Heart and Hustle Award. It's the second consecutive season Donaldson was chosen for the honor.More >>
  • All other Local CollegesMore>>

  • Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Samford picked to finish third in Southern Conference

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 8:38 PM EDT2014-07-24 00:38:39 GMT
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
    Coming off it's first trip to the FCS Playoffs, Samford was picked to finish third in the Southern Conference, the highest the program has even been picked in the preseason since it joined the league in 2008.More >>
  • Alabama State, Southern favorites in SWAC

    Alabama State, Southern favorites in SWAC

    Friday, July 18 2014 5:11 PM EDT2014-07-18 21:11:55 GMT
    Defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Southern and Alabama State are the favorites to win their divisions.More >>
    Defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Southern and Alabama State are the favorites to win their divisions.
    More >>
  • JSU football picked by media to win OVC championship

    JSU football picked by media to win OVC championship

    Friday, July 18 2014 4:08 PM EDT2014-07-18 20:08:13 GMT
    Jacksonville State is picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship by media covering the league.More >>
    Jacksonville State is picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship by media covering the league.
    More >>
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Social media helps Homewood bakery find missing truck in under an hour

    Social media helps Homewood bakery find missing truck in under an hour

    Sunday, July 27 2014 10:33 PM EDT2014-07-28 02:33:35 GMT
    A Homewood bakery got its missing truck back less than one hour after asking for help on social media. Two people saw the plea for help on social media and spotted it on their way home from a Barons game.More >>
    A Homewood bakery got its missing truck back less than one hour after asking for help on social media. Two people saw the plea for help on social media and spotted it on their way home from a Barons game.More >>
  • Nationwide manhunt for Ozark man accused of kidnapping, sexual assault

    Nationwide manhunt for Ozark man accused of kidnapping, sexual assault

    Sunday, July 27 2014 10:00 PM EDT2014-07-28 02:00:39 GMT
    David PittsDavid Pitts
    A 30 year old woman and 8 year old child are receiving medical treatment after they were kidnapped and sexually assaulted. A nationwide manhunt is now underway for the suspect.More >>
    A 30 year old woman and 8 year old child are receiving medical treatment after they were kidnapped and sexually assaulted. A nationwide manhunt is now underway for the suspect.More >>
  • Attorney "getting conflicting stories about absentee ballots" in contested JeffCo race

    Attorney "getting conflicting stories about absentee ballots" in contested JeffCo race

    Sunday, July 27 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-07-27 23:08:43 GMT
    Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown is expected to address the challenge to the District Two election results Monday. The contest was filed by one of her opponent's supporters. ABC 33/40 spoke with the attorney representing that supporter.More >>
    Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown is expected to address the challenge to the District Two election results Monday. The contest was filed by one of her opponent's supporters. ABC 33/40 spoke with the attorney representing that supporter.More >>
  • Woman doused with gasoline and burned by ex-boyfriend

    Woman doused with gasoline and burned by ex-boyfriend

    Sunday, July 27 2014 5:04 PM EDT2014-07-27 21:04:38 GMT
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's department is looking for 48 year old Michael Kennedy. He's wanted on several charges after allegedly setting his ex-girlfriend on fire. Just after 2:30 this morning deputies respond to a report of a house fire in the 4400 block of Nellie Anderson Street. They arrived to find a 49 year old female victim with extensive burns to her head, arms, upper body and legs. She was transported to the hospital and admitted to a burn unit in serious condition. Investigators...More >>
    The Jefferson County Sheriff's department is looking for 48 year old Michael Kennedy. He's wanted on several charges after allegedly setting his ex-girlfriend on fire. Just after 2:30 this morning deputies respond to a report of a house fire in the 4400 block of Nellie Anderson Street. They arrived to find a 49 year old female victim with extensive burns to her head, arms, upper body and legs. She was transported to the hospital and admitted to a burn unit in serious condition. Investigators...More >>
  • A triple shooting leaves one person dead

    A triple shooting leaves one person dead

    Sunday, July 27 2014 11:51 AM EDT2014-07-27 15:51:55 GMT
    One person is dead and two others in juried in an early morning shooting in Ensley. Birmingham Police report incident occurred in the 1600 Block of Avenue I. Around 2:30 a.m. police were called to the location and found the victim lying face down in the street suffering from a gunshot wound to the back. Birmingham Fire and Rescue also responded to the scene and pronounced the victim deceased at the scene. The name of the victim has not yet been released pending notification of relatives. Ther...More >>
    One person is dead and two others in juried in an early morning shooting in Ensley. Birmingham Police report incident occurred in the 1600 Block of Avenue I. Around 2:30 a.m. police were called to the location and found the victim lying face down in the street suffering from a gunshot wound to the back. Birmingham Fire and Rescue also responded to the scene and pronounced the victim deceased at the scene. The name of the victim has not yet been released pending notification of relatives. Ther...More >>
  • Judge Rules Benz Plant Violated Labor Laws

    Judge Rules Benz Plant Violated Labor Laws

    Saturday, July 26 2014 11:29 PM EDT2014-07-27 03:29:07 GMT
    A judge has ruled Mercedes-Benz U.S. International violated labor laws while dealing with employees interested in forming a labor union.An administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board ordered MBUSI to revise rules in its employee handbook governing the solicitation and distribution of materials at its auto manufacturing plant in Vance.The United Auto Workers accused Mercedes managers of stymieing pro-union employees' efforts to distribute information about the union.Mercede...More >>
    A judge has ruled Mercedes-Benz U.S. International violated labor laws while dealing with employees interested in forming a labor union.An administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board ordered MBUSI to revise rules in its employee handbook governing the solicitation and distribution of materials at its auto manufacturing plant in Vance.The United Auto Workers accused Mercedes managers of stymieing pro-union employees' efforts to distribute information about the union.Mercede...More >>
  • Glen Allen man killed in accident involving logging truck

    Glen Allen man killed in accident involving logging truck

    Saturday, July 26 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-07-26 22:17:25 GMT
    Alabama State Troopers say a 63 year old man from Glen Allen was killed in a two vehicle crash in Fayette County. It happened Friday night on County Road 73.More >>
    Alabama State Troopers say a 63 year old man from Glen Allen was killed in a two vehicle crash in Fayette County. It happened Friday night on County Road 73.More >>
  • Shooting victim's wife and sons want answers concerning homicide investigation

    Shooting victim's wife and sons want answers concerning homicide investigation

    Saturday, July 26 2014 6:11 PM EDT2014-07-26 22:11:45 GMT
    Family members grieve the loss of a 37-year-old man shot dead. Birmingham police are investigating. A family is asking questions as police hear conflicting stories.More >>
    Family members grieve the loss of a 37-year-old man shot dead. Birmingham police are investigating. A family is asking questions as police hear conflicting stories.
    More >>