Air-tight defense, blocked shots and an improbable jump shot from a freshman helped the fourth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats edge the top-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes, 62-60, in their Sweet Sixteen battle on March 25.

With the game tied 60-60, freshman point guard Brandon Knight dribbled to his right and pulled up for a jumper with a defender’s hand in his face, calmly sinking a 15-footer to give the Wildcats the lead with less than eight seconds left.

Knight then motioned for his teammates to get back on defense as Ohio State raced down court, only to watch junior guard William Buford’s three-pointer clang off the rim, sending Kentucky to the Elite Eight.

“When it comes to crunch time, couple seconds left, the game is on the line, I just try to make good decisions,” Knight said in the postgame press conference.

The freshman may have a good thing going, as his game-winner against Ohio State followed up a similar shot he made in the second round against Princeton which helped the Wildcats advance.

“We knew what we wanted to do: get the ball in Brandon’s hands,” Kentucky junior guard Darius Miller said. “He’s done it before, we trust him with the ball and he came through again.”

It was a battle from start to finish for the two schools as they finished the first half tied 30-30 with Kentucky winning the second half, 32-30. The lead changed 19 times as neither team could establish more than a three-point lead throughout the second half. With opposing defenses dominating, both teams looked inside for an edge. Ohio State freshman center Jared Sullinger led all players with 21 points and 16 rebounds while senior forward Josh Harrellson led Kentucky with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Kentucky will advance to play longtime rival North Carolina, a number two seed, on March 27 for a trip to the Final Four.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO