ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – The headlines will go to those unflappable Harrison twins, Andrew who passed to his brother Aaron for the 3-pointer that lifted Kentucky into yet another national championship game.
They owe a considerable debt of gratitude to fellow freshman James Young.
So often overlooked in favor of his more decorated teammates, Young scored a game-high 17 points in the Wildcats’ dramatic 74-73 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday night.
It was his grit when things were going rough that kept Kentucky in the game. Young scored nine of his points in the first half of the semifinal, when nothing seemed to be going right, and then jumpstarted the big second-half run that forced the game to go down to the wire.
And gave those plucky Harrisons a chance to ultimately win it.
When the Badgers’ Traevon Jackson missed a jumper at the buzzer, and the Wildcats’ Marcus Lee corralled the ball off the backboard, it was Young who led the charge to engulf Aaron Harrison at midcourt. He was right in the midst of a happy scrum that made a team full of teenagers – Young is one of five freshman starters – look like nothing more than giddy schoolchildren.
Eighth-seeded Kentucky (29-10), which caught fired during the SEC tournament and has kept up the run throughout March Madness, will play seventh-seeded UConn in a surprising title game.
The Huskies beat overall No. 1 seed Florida 63-53 earlier in the night.
Perhaps it was inevitable that when everything was falling apart for Kentucky, and Wisconsin had built a 43-38 lead early in the second half, it would be Young that held things together.
Praised by his teammates for his laid-back demeanor, and with ice coursing through his veins, Young scored five points on a single trip down floor that put a charge in his scuffling team.
He first scored on a driving layup while getting fouled, and then after missing the free throw, wound up with the ball in his hands again. Young calmly knocked down a 3-pointer, drawing Kentucky within a point and sending a stoic Big Blue Nation into a tizzy.
Young added two free throws to cap the 15-0 surge that gave Kentucky the lead.
From that point on, the game turned into the kind of back-and-forth instant classic that has become a hallmark of this topsy-turvy NCAA tournament.
Young’s basket with just under 8 minutes to go got Kentucky within 64-62, and his scrappy defense down the stretch helped the Wildcats hang on when Wisconsin threatened to pull ahead.
When the final buzzer sounded, and the celebration began, he was right in the middle of it, just as he’d been in the middle of things all night long.