Clutch plays from the Harrisons got UK to overtime

Julius Randle’s game-winning shot is what will stick in everyone’s mind after Kentucky’s 77-76 overtime victory against the LSU Tigers on Saturday, but chances are Randle never gets off the final shot without the Harrison twins buckling down late in the game and putting  the Cats on their backs.

In the final six minutes of regulation, the twins made huge plays to keep UK in the game.

It started with Aaron Harrison, who scored six straight points and came up with a steal when the two teams were trading baskets late in the game, and then, with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Andrew Harrison hit two vital free throws to send the game into overtime.

From there, Randle did the rest.

“We lost an overtime game before,” Andrew Harrison said. “We all told each other during overtime, ‘We’re not losing this one.’ So we just kept coming. They hit some big shots in overtime. Big shots. We just kept coming and kept fighting and kept swinging.”

In Kentucky’s first matchup with LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Andrew and Aaron Harrison were relatively quiet. The two combined for 22 points, shooting 7 of 20 from the field with just six rebounds and five combined turnovers. Saturday’s game for the Harrison twins was a completely different story where the two seemingly did a 180 down the stretch.

Even though Andrew Harrison had an off shooting night (3 of 13 from the floor), he kept grinding, drove to the basket and got fouled with the Cats trailing by two with 10 seconds remaining. He  hit the two clutch free throws to tie the game at 65 and sent the game into overtime.

“I think (making) free throws is about confidence,” Andrew Harrison said. “Knowing that you’re going to make it is really the biggest thing. I was struggling from the field a lot. I had some easy shots I usually make and just got to get back in the gym.”

Andrew Harrison missed two key jumpers, including an ill-advised jump shot out of a timeout with 31 seconds left and UK trailing by one, but Calipari was proud of how he bounced back.

Andrew Harrison finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists. (photo by Chris Reynolds)

“I don’t want him to judge himself on shooting,” Calipari said. “You know what I told him after the game? We came out of that timeout and twice I ran a play for him to get a wide-open shot on that wing and he missed. I said, ‘I’ll run it again for you ’cause I know you can make that. Don’t you worry about missing. If we give you a play, you got to make it.’ ”

And make it — at the line — he did.

To go along with his nine points, Andrew Harrison totaled six rebounds, four assists and had two blocks in 39 minutes of play. Harrison credited his teammates for coming through with big baskets to get the win.

“It’s always good win, especially when you’re not having your best game,” Andrew Harrison said. “I felt kind of bad during the game because I know Coach was calling my number and I wasn’t really coming through. I just thank God for Aaron, Julius and James coming through and making big baskets at the end of the game.”

Aaron Harrison, on the other hand, was hot down the stretch. He had 10 of Kentucky’s 18 final points heading into overtime. But Aaron Harrison didn’t just have a strong game offensively; he was all over the court diving for loose balls and battling the entire game, even after hitting his head following a hard foul.

“You can’t really think about it, you can’t feel sorry for yourself or nothing like that,” Aaron Harrison said of the scary fall. “That’s not what we’re about. I just had to fight through something that.”

Aaron Harrison finished with 21 points, one assist and two steals in 43 minutes of action. He was 7 for 15 from the floor.

“We scratched and crawled to get the win,” Aaron Harrison said. “So I think we’re going to build off of this game and keep getting better.”

The twins, as they were last game at Ole Miss, were particularly good at pushing the ball and getting UK in transition. LSU head coach Johnny Jones was impressed with the Harrison twins on both sides of the ball.

“They put a lot of pressure on you and try to get in the gaps and rotate to throw it over the top,” Jones said. “They are big-time finishers.”

Finishing is not a word that has been associated with Kentucky this season, but Saturday’s victory was different. It was one of the few times the Wildcats have been able to battle back from adversity and pull out a win late in the game.

Andrew Harrison thinks that this time around, it came down to confidence and chemistry within the team.

“When we lost to Florida, we knew we could have won and made some mistakes at the end,” Andrew said. “So we started talking about thinking differently and having more confidence in us and chemistry. That’s what we’ve been talking about, what Coach has been beating into us the past few days. I think it’s been working our last two games.”