Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kentucky Still Perfect Barely

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kentucky Still Perfect Barely

Article excerpt

CLEVELAND * With everything at stake for Kentucky, the Wildcats stayed calm and made just enough plays to keep their unblemished season intact.

The shot at history and another NCAA title still are within reach.

Andrew Harrison made two free throws with six seconds remaining to break a tie, and the unbeaten Wildcats made their last nine shots to survive their toughest test to date, coming back after trailing for much of the second half to defeat Notre Dame 68-66 on Saturday night in the Midwest Regional final.

The Wildcats (38-0), seeking to become college basketball's first undefeated champion in 39 years, advanced to the Final Four in Indianapolis next week, where they will meet Wisconsin a rematch of a semifinal last year. This time, Kentucky opened as a six-point favorite.

"We know our will to win," said Aaron Harrison, who hit a crucial 3-pointer Saturday. "And it just showed us we never give up, and we fight to the end just like any other team."

These Wildcats are not like any other team.

The Fighting Irish (32-6) came within seconds of shocking the tournament's overwhelming favorite. Notre Dame, with a rich history of stunning upsets in football and basketball, wasn't done until Jerian Grant's double-clutch 3-pointer from the left corner was long. When the ball harmlessly hit the floor and the horn sounded, Kentucky's players hugged in celebration, knowing they had ducked disaster. The 'Cats had used up one of their nine lives.

"We didn't play very well, and Notre Dame, I thought, controlled the whole thing, but we made the plays," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We figured out a way to win it. We've had other tests, but we have a will to win."

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 25 points 17 after halftime to lead Kentucky.

Zach Auguste scored 20, Steve Vasturia 16 and Grant 15 for the third-seeded Fighting Irish, playing in their first regional final in 36 years.

The Fighting Irish took the fight to Kentucky and nearly pulled off another one of those shockers.

"We really thought we had a great chance of beating them, and I thought we displayed that," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. …

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