3/29/2014 5:30:00 AM Aaron Harrison's go-ahead trey lifts Kentucky past Louisville; Dawson keys Michigan State past Virginia
NCAA Midwest: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Nobody will accuse these Kentucky kids of being the fastest learners. Not this season. And certainly not during most of Friday night's game against Louisville.
But once again, late in the game with everything on the line, they figured things out just in time.
Aaron Harrison hit a 3-pointer for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds left and Julius Randle made a pair of clutch free throws to lift the fantastic freshmen of Kentucky to a 74-69 victory over their in-state rivals.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) led for a grand total of 65 seconds in this Midwest Regional semifinal. They'll play Michigan on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
"I told them before the game, you'll get punched in the mouth and you're going to taste blood," coach John Calipari said. "You can fight or you can brace yourself for the next shot. They fought."
Fourth-seeded and defending champion Louisville ends its season at 31-6.
Few expected a run this deep for the Wildcats as this season played out and their five freshmen starters struggled to play a team game. But they've been learning slowly. They trailed by 13 midway through the first half, then by seven with 4½ minutes left.
Suddenly, things kicked in.
Actually, it was a sophomore, Alex Poythress, who scored five points and blocked a Russ Smith layup attempt during a 7-0 run that tied the game at 66 with 2:11 left.
"Alex Poythress won the game for us," Calipari said. "We were begging him the whole game to start playing, and he played at the right time."
From there, it was the Kentucky freshmen - the Kiddie 'Cats - who showed all the poise against the defending national champs, who were led by seniors Smith (23 points) and Luke Hancock (19).
Harrison took a pass from Julius Randle and spotted up in the corner for the go-ahead shot. Both finished with 15 points, as did yet another freshman starter, Dakari Johnson.
On the next possession, Louisville's Wayne Blackshear got fouled. The 71 percent career free throw shooter missed the first. Randle came down and made two free throws to put Kentucky ahead by three. Harrison guarded Smith and forced him to miss a tough 3-pointer on the next possession - "His first stop of the game," Calipari quipped.
A few seconds later, the Wildcats were chest bumping and Calipari was pumping his fists to a loud stadium that was about two-thirds Kentucky blue, one-third Cardinals red.
Kentucky has now knocked off previously undefeated Wichita State, defending national champion Louisville and has a meeting with last year's runner-up, Michigan, coming next. Earlier, the Wolverines beat Tennessee 73-71.
NCAA East: Michigan State 61, Virginia 59
NEW YORK (AP) - Michigan State turned the defensive tables on Virginia and the Spartans advanced to the Elite Eight, putting them back in a place where they have had a lot of success.
Branden Dawson had 24 points and 10 rebounds and the Spartans forced top-seeded Virginia into a terrible shooting performance in a 61-59 victory Friday night to advance to East Regional final of the NCAA tournament.
The fourth-seeded Spartans (29-8) will play Connecticut (29-8) on Sunday with a Final Four berth at stake. The seventh-seeded Huskies beat third-seeded Iowa State 81-76 earlier Friday.
Michigan State overcame a horrible start to the second half and then withstood a late run by the Cavaliers (30-7) to advance to the regional finals for the eighth time since 1999 - all under coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans have a 6-1 record in those games and in 2000 they went on to win it all.
Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon both had 17 points for Virginia, which became the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated, joining Wichita State.
Adreian Payne had 16 points for Michigan State and his 3-pointer with 1:29 left gave the Spartans the lead for good at 54-51. After a miss by Brogdon, the 6-foot-10 Payne turned point guard, finding Dawson with a line drive lob pass for a dunk with 52 seconds to go.
Harris hit a 3 with 39 seconds left to bring the Cavaliers within 56-54.
Payne found another way to help the Spartans, making two free throws with 32 seconds left for a 58-54 lead.
Brogdon hit a 3 with 1.1 seconds left to bring Virginia within 60-59. Gary Harris made one of two free throws to make it 61-59 and Virginia's last attempt was well off the mark.
Michigan State came up with the kind of defensive effort that Virginia is known for. The Spartans held the Cavaliers to 35.1 percent shooting (20 of 57), well off the 45.7 percent they shot during the season and nowhere near the 54.3 percent they shot in the two NCAA tournament games.
"I think I definitely have to credit their defense," Brogdon said. "They have a lot of good athletes. They contest shots. But we also missed some easy layups inside for sure. But I can't take away from their defense."
Dawson, who averages 11.0 points per game, has scored in double figures in six straight games and he had a career-high 26 points in the third-round win over Harvard. He missed nine games this season with a broken right hand, an injury he inflicted on himself when he hit a table while watching film.
"It was tough, being out for those nine games," Dawson said. "For me, just making the bad decision that I made, I learned from it a lot. That didn't stop me from coming in and working hard, and I think that being out for those nine games, I just told myself that my team needs me, and I just need to step up and be a man. And that's what I did."
Izzo called Dawson "a freak athlete," both in strength and athletic ability.
"He's not been a very good shooter. He's worked hard on it," Izzo said. "I told him God might have taken his hand when he broke it, but he gave him a jump shot when he returned, because he's a lot better shooter."