An instant classic game between Kentucky ended with the Wildcats sending Michigan home to the tune of 75-72.
Throughout the first half, it was a story of Kentucky falling behind and then catching up. UK didn't have many answers for Nik Stauskas, who had 15 before the break. What kept the Wildcats afloat was the emergence of Marcus Lee. Despite being a five-star recruit, the freshman big man played sparingly during the regular season. Today with Willie Cauley-Stein out, Lee scored 10 points and snagged four rebounds before the half. His energy around the basket helped make up for a dismal offensive first half for Julius Randle, who made just two of seven shots. The teams finished the first frame tied at 37.
The second half was tight throughout, with each team hitting nice stretches before the other would go on its own run. Randle came alive, and he and Lee kept UK successful on the boards. It looked like UK might finally be taking control as it took its largest lead of the game of seven with just under seven minutes to go, but UM scored six straight to get right back in it.
From 4:47 to 1:40 on the clock, the combined teams scored on nine straight possessions as they traded haymakers. With just under a minute to go, UM missed three shots but also got three offensive rebounds. Jordan Morgan tipped in the third miss, tying the game up at 72. Michigan committed a foul to give with 10 seconds left, resetting the offense for UK. The Wildcats ran a pretty basic play setting up Aaron Harrison behind the three point line. He just barely got a shot off over Caris LeVert, but it found the bottom of the net. Stauskas's heave from midcourt missed, and UK survived.
Stauskas led all scorers with 24, including 10 points from the free throw line. Randle led the way for UK with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Lee finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, seven of them offensive. Aaron Harrison had 12 on four triples, and James Young had 13 points.
Kentucky's season didn't go exactly as planned, but it sure is ending up how some UK fans had envisioned. It's not easy to make the Final Four as an 8-seed in what is considered to be the toughest region in the field, but Kentucky did just that.