UConn To Face Kentucky In NCAA Final
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And then there were two - the universities of Kentucky and Connecticut will play tomorrow night for the championship of men's Division I college basketball. They both won yesterday in the Final Four, but not without some heart palpitating action. Connecticut upset number one seed Florida. Kentucky just barely edged out Wisconsin. NPR's Tom Goldman was in Arlington, Texas for the games and he sent this report.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: There is no truth to the rumor that Sports Illustrated magazine henceforth will call itself Aaron Harrison Illustrated, even though the Kentucky freshman guard graced the most recent SI cover, hitting a winning end of game three-pointer against Michigan last weekend, and then last night he did it again. But let's back up just a little from his Saturday night dagger against Wisconsin. A minute left, score tied at 71. Another great game. Quick - name a better tournament in recent or even distant memory. Wisconsin led in that final minute after guard Traevon Jackson made two of three free throws. Oh, to have that third one because after the free throws, Kentucky, trailing by two, brought the ball down, Andrew Harrison got it to twin brother Aaron and...
GOLDMAN: From almost the same spot on the court where he felled Michigan, the three gave Kentucky a 74-73 lead with 5.7 seconds left, which held up. And excuse me, did Aaron actually smile when he got the pass from his brother? Yep.
(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)
AARON HARRISON: That's just the best feeling in the world, just being able to take the last shot - the confidence that your teammates have in you to take the last shot is just a great feeling. So I was just smiling.
GOLDMAN: So was Kentucky head coach John Calipari as he walked off the court and happened to bump into an old rival Jim Calhoun. Listen closely to what Calipari says.
JOHN CALIPARI: Here we go again. Let's have some fun.
GOLDMAN: Here we go again, let's have some fun. The two men last met in the Final Four in 2011 when Calhoun's Connecticut Huskies beat Calipari's Wildcats by a point on UConn's way to the title. Calhoun's now retired from couching, but sure didn't sound like it after UConn's 63-53 upset win over Florida in the first semi-final. A Florida team that came into the game having won 30 in a row.
JIM CALHOUN: When they got down, they played like a 30-game win streak team that was protecting something. We weren't protecting something, we were attacking something.
(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL GAME)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: UConn up six - Napier in transition for three. He rattles it home. UConn with a 31-22 lead two minutes into the second-half.
GOLDMAN: By the time UConn's superlative senior point guard Shabazz Napier hit that shot as heard on WestwoodOne, Connecticut's attack was fully underway. In fact, the Huskies would never again trail. Defense normally is Florida's forte, but it was UConn that put on the defensive show forcing the Gators into a dismal 38 percent shooting performance including 1 for 10 from 3-point range. So the under-the-radar Huskies, banned from this tournament last year because of poor academic scores, are feeling a lot better about themselves. Terence Samuel is a freshman guard.
TERENCE SAMUEL: Our confidence is above the roof right, you know, we can't be stopped. Especially with our defense, you know, us playing defense like that in the half court - great team. That's all.
GOLDMAN: Predictions have been hard to come by in this wide-open tournament, but here's a pretty sound one - Samuel's great team will play another great team tomorrow night and there's a good chance the result will be - you guessed it - great. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Dallas.
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