By Rick Teverbaugh
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kentucky was the final team to punch its ticket for the Final Four, but none made it with any more gusto.
All game long the Wildcats had been able to score by penetration, off offensive rebounds and with 3-pointers.
So when Michigan had to defend the final 27 seconds with the score tied 72-72, the Wolverines decided what they wanted to take away. What remained was the 3-pointer.
Aaron Harrison, a freshman from Texas, hit a step-back trey with 2.6 seconds left and pit propelled the Wildcats into next weekend's Final Four in his home state.
"Most of the game was about dribble drive and playing above the rim (by Kentucky)," said Michigan coach John Beilein.
"We decided we wanted them to beat us from over the top. He hit a tough shot."
Harrison described the final moments by saying, "I fumbled the handoff. I didn't know how much time was left, but I knew there wasn't much. I just got the best shot I could and it went in."
"The thing about that shot," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, "is that you can't be afraid to miss. He's not afraid to miss." Harrison hit two-thirds of his six 3-pointers to account for all 12 of his points.
To get the game deadlocked, Michigan staged one of the most furious assaults at the basket seen in recent memory.
It started with 42 seconds left when Nik Stauskas missed a shot in tight in the lane. Chris Lavert got the offensive rebound and five seconds later it ended up in Stauskas hands for a corner 3-point try. He missed and Lavert got the offensive board again. This time Derrick Walton Jr. launched a 3, but it fell off the rim on the right side. Jordan Morgan battled for the ball and it was tipped in to tie the contest. That entire process took 15 seconds.
Kentucky took time out.
"They had a foul to give and we knew they would foul us," said Calipari. It came with 10 seconds left. That left time for a pass in, a handoff, a fumble, a step back and the game-winner.
There were other things less dramatic that put the Wildcats in position to win. A 35-24 rebounding edge was one of them, though the Wolverines actually had 23 second chance points to 17 for the winners.
But Kentucky outscored Michigan 46-36 in the paint and 18-11 off the bench.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was a stat that finished even -- 3-pointers. Both teams hit seven but it took Michigan 18 tries to net seven, but it took Kentucky just 11.
Kentucky had four players score in double figures topped by Julius Randle with 16 points. James Young had 13 and Marcus Lee 10.
Michigan's Stauskas had a game-high 24 points and Glenn Robinson III added 14.
"This was a great basketball game," said Beilein. "Even the people in the highest seats got their money's worth. Give credit to Kentucky. They hit big shots when they had to."