Aaron Harrison hits the trifecta to lead Kentucky past Wisconsin

Written By BY STEVE GREENBERG Posted: 04/06/2014, 02:31am
Array Kentucky players celebrate on the court after their 74-73 victory over Wisconsin in an NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

ARLINGTON, Texas — Somehow, he did it again. Somehow, when once was incredible enough and twice would seem too much to even dream of, he made March magic of the ­highest order.

Come to think of it, it might be April by now. Who can keep their minds right amid all this madness?

But whatever you do, remember the name Aaron Harrison. As in forever.

Whether he plays a full career or one season, as Kentucky superstar freshmen are wont to do, Harrison will go down among the all-time highlight heroes of an era. He hit the left-wing three-pointer with 5.7 seconds left that shattered the championship dreams of Wisconsin, a 25-footer that made the final score of 74-73 look kind of cruel.

Incredibly — tragically, if you’re a Big Ten fan — it was an instant replay. Harrison hit almost the same exact shot, from the same left wing, the same two steps behind the arc, to beat Michigan in the Midwest Regional final.

“I’m pretty confident so far,” he said. “I’ve been hitting some big shots down the stretch.”

He also canned a huge three from the corner with 40 seconds left in the Sweet 16 victory against rival Louisville that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.

So Harrison has hit more than his share of them already, that’s for sure.

Moments such as these are about jubilation on one side and heartbreak on the other, but also about thrills for everyone in a football-sized crowd at Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ palatial digs — and for anyone who watched from anywhere, really. Even from up north in Badgerland.

This national semifinal — unlike the sluggish affair between Connecticut and Florida that preceded it — will be long remembered.

Shouldn’t it always be that way when the stage is this big?

Afterward, the Badgers, who finished 30-8 had a sense of the moment. A sense they had participated in something special, that they hadn’t failed so much as died trying to succeed.

“We just came up one short,” said coach Bo Ryan. “We’ve been on the other end of those. We know what it’s like.”

Minutes after Michigan’s Nik Stauskas tweeted, “Can’t call it lucky the second time around,” Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker shared similar praise for Harrison.

“He’s got that clutch gene,” Dekker said. “Props to him for ­hitting that shot.”

Game, as they say, recognizes game. And believe this: Though very different teams, the Wildcats and the Badgers spilled their guts and their game on the floor.

There were throwdowns galore by Kentucky. There were periods of explosive play that made one wonder how the Wildcats (29-10) ever are beaten.

But there were all the things the Badgers are good at, too. Long possessions ending in extra passes for buried three-point shots. Poise in times of trouble. Confidence when lesser teams might have found it in short supply.

For Wisconsin’s Traevon ­Jackson, there was a final shot at the basket, a makeable jumper from inside the arc that he had converted to win a game or two along the way this season.

He missed. It happens.

Wisconsin — in the Final Four for the third time ever — still searches for its first victory in a national semifinal game since all the way back in 1941.

Kentucky — with 16 Final Fours, and three in the last four years — will go for another title when it meets Connecticut on Monday night. It will be an 8-seed in the Wildcats against a 7-seed in the Huskies, but please, can we forget those silly seed numbers already?

If you’re still playing, it’s because you belong in one grand finale.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg

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