Aaron Harrison was the living embodiment of its spirit Saturday in Arlington, Texas, hitting his third-consecutive game-winning shot to help bail out twin brother Andrew from a rough final two minutes in the Wildcats' latest unbelievable finish, a 74-73 win over Wisconsin in the national semifinals at the Final Four.
Harrison made a deep 3-pointer from the left wing with 5.7 seconds remaining – in nearly the exact location as his game-winner last weekend against Michigan – to send Kentucky to Monday's national championship game against Connecticut. The Huskies upset No. 1 Florida in the first semifinal matchup, denying UK of a fourth opportunity to knock off the Gators in all-SEC final.
And for a few moments, it looked like the Cats had used the last of their nine lives.
Andrew Harrison had missed two shots on UK's final three possessions. To compound his woes, he also fouled Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson on a 3-point attempt with 15 seconds remaining in a tie game. Jackson missed the first free throw – the Badgers' only miss of the night after hitting their first 17 – but made the next two to give his team a 73-71 lead.
The late miscues may have haunted Andrew Harrison for a long time if not for his brother's heroics.
After Andrew Harrison drove the baseline on the final sequence, he eventually found center Dakari Johnson in the post, who, after bobbling the ball momentarily, got it back to Harrison in the corner. He quickly passed to Aaron Harrison, who rattled in an NBA-range 3-pointer over Wisconsin's Josh Gasser for the win.
"Dang, he really saved me today," Andrew Harrison wrote of his twin on the Twitter social network soon after the game ended and moments after Calipari orchestrated a hug between the siblings in the UK locker room. "He's the baddest dude (in) the universe."
"We have been playing together our whole lives, and sometimes I have a bad game and he helps me," Aaron Harrison said. "Sometimes he has a bad game, and I help him, so it doesn't really matter. It's not one-sided, really."
Wisconsin's players suggested Aaron Harrison was blessed with a "clutch gene." After all, they had seen him hit a go-ahead 3 against Louisville with 39.1 seconds remaining and last week's game-winner against Michigan with only 2.3 ticks left on the clock.
"I don't know about the clutch gene thing," Harrison said. "I just like winning. If to hit that shot, if that's what I have to do to win, that's what I have to do. If it was a rebound or something else, I had to do to win a game, that's what I would try to do for my team."
His coach may not be sure about the genes, but he knows the freshman guard is fearless.
"Guys that make game-winners are not afraid to miss them, and he's not afraid to miss," Calipari said. "If he misses, give me another one. I'll make another one. The best players I've had that played that way and can make those kind of plays, they have amnesia from play to play."
Harrison's heroics have been firmly etched in Big Blue Nation lore due to his play during the Cats' March to the championship game. But many will forget his last three points gave him only eight on the night.
Kentucky's Alex Poythress dunked in two of his eight points against the Badgers. (USA Today Sports Photo by Bob Donnan.)
Kentucky got big contributions from several other sources, including 17 points from freshman swingman James Young and 16 points from freshman forward Julius Randle. Johnson, another freshman, recorded 10 points and seven rebounds in the post, while sophomore forward Alex Poythress added eight points and seven boards off the bench.
The Cats needed every last one of them.
Wisconsin (30-8) saw its season end when Jackson's final shot at the buzzer missed the mark. UK held the Badgers to just four points over the final 5:05.
Sam Dekker and Ben Brust each had 15 points to lead Wisconsin. Jackson and Bronson Koenig added 12 and 11, respectively. Frank Kaminsky entered the game as one of the tourney's most-dominant performers, but the 7-foot center was held to eight points and five rebounds.
Kentucky shot 50 percent (29 of 58) from the floor and held a 32-27 rebounding advantage. The Cats outscored the Badgers 46-24 in the paint.
One final obstacle remains in UK's quest for a ninth national championship. UConn and UK will battle in a championship matchup between the two highest-seeded teams in NCAA tourney history on Monday night at AT&T Stadium.
Calipari expects another "war."
"Kansas State, Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan, Wisconsin, and now we got Connecticut," he said. "It's nuts… And we're still standing, which is great."