Harrison saves best for last in UK comeback

For most of Monday night's game against Cleveland State, Kentucky looked like one would expect a roster dominated by freshmen to look like. But Andrew Harrison & Co. saved their best for last.

For most of Monday night's game against Cleveland State, Kentucky looked like one would expect a roster dominated by freshmen to look like.

Not very good.

But for the final seven and a half minutes, the young Wildcats showed glimpses of why so many college basketball observers were sky high on them entering the season by coming back from a 10-point deficit to win 68-61 in the Keightley Classic.

While UK head coach John Calipari bemoaned his team's slow start, something of a recurring issue early in the season, he was impressed by its ability to answer the bell when the game was on the line.

"Who can make plays? Who is not afraid to make plays? Who is not going to panic?" Calipari said of the Cats' nice comeback.

In this one, it was primarily freshman point guard Andrew Harrison. It may have been the breakthrough performance UK fans have been anxious to see from the five-star Texas product.

When Cleveland State took a double-digit lead at 54-44 with the game clock reading 7:41, it was Harrison who stepped up in a big way. On two consecutive offensive possessions, the point guard used his size to knife into the lane and connect with Willie Cauley-Stein for lob dunks, cutting the lead to 54-51.

Just minutes later he took the Viking defense 1-on-3 for a layup. He handled the contact, got fouled, and completed the three-point play from the free throw line. The Rupp Arena crowd went bonkers, and UK's youngsters responded to the extra push from the "sixth man."

"I have never felt something like this. It was amazing," UK freshman wing James Young said. "I want this feeling when we are not down. I want it to be like that all of the time. I have never felt something like that before."

Harrison was not done. After an assist to Young for a 19-foot jumper, he converted another three-point play at the rim, giving UK a 60-57 advantage with 2:08 to play. The Cats never trailed again.

"He was being more of a leader. He really stood out," Young said of Harrison's performance. "He directed us a lot and told us where to go and what to do. He really stepped up."

Harrison finished the gritty contest with 12 points, five assists and just one turnover in 21 minutes of play. He was extremely productive in limited action due to foul trouble. After picking up his fifth foul at the :27.2 mark, he left the game to a big ovation from the UK faithful.

Even though Harrison made some of the biggest plays down the stretch, he was quick to credit his teammates for the victory, a natural gesture from the point guard.

"All of us stepped up. James Young played great. Julius [Randle] in the paint; nobody was getting a rebound at that point, nobody but him," Harrison said. "So it wasn't me at all. It was (the team) and I was just getting them the ball. They were just making me look good."

He looked good to his coach, too, who has been working with Harrison to be more assertive and to carry himself with better body language when things aren't going well.

"From where (the Harrison twins) were three weeks ago, they are so far ahead of that," Calipari said. "But we still have months to get this thing together."


AllWildcats Top Stories