Wall-elujah: Freshman saves UK

Point guard hits game-winner in regular-season debut

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 17, 2009 

Kentucky's joy ride this season hit unexpected turbulence Monday night.

With Nick Winbush setting a Rupp Arena record for a visiting player with eight three-point baskets, Miami forced No. 4 Kentucky to play a possession-by-possession nail-biter.

Thanks to inside dominance and a clutch shot by John Wall, UK won 72-70.

Wall, belatedly making his highly anticipated UK debut, hit a 12-footer from the left side inside the final second to win the game.

"That's John," fellow freshman DeMarcus Cousins said. "Mr. Clutch."

But Cousins, whose double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) came in the second half, took no chances. "I was going for the rebound," he said with a smile, "just in case."

Not to worry. Wall improvised what he intended to be a driving layup. Cut off, he rose and swished the jumper.

"John Wall is legit," Cousins said. "He's the real deal. There is no guard out there better. John just started his legacy."

When told about starting a legacy, Wall smiled a shy smile. "I don't really know what to say," he said. "I'll tell you one thing. He (Cousins) came out in the second half and got us going."

Miami, which lost at Towson on Friday, had tied the score at 70 on a Kenny Hayes three-pointer with eight seconds left. Then Wall answered. He came up one point short of becoming the third UK freshman to debut with 20 or more points. He led the Cats with 19.

Patrick Patterson and Cousins chipped in 17 and 10, respectively. Those points reflected UK's dominance inside. The Cats enjoyed a 32-12 advantage in points in the paint and a 21-8 edge in second-chance points.

Winbush led all scorers with 26 points. Overall, Miami made 15 of 26 three-point shots, which was one more than Virginia Military Institute made in winning at Kentucky early last season.

"For us to win a game when they go 15-of-26 from the three-point line, I can't believe it," UK Coach John Calipari said. "We talked at halftime, if we lose, don't let it be from three."

Miami made five of 10 three-point shots in the second half.

A wild first half saw Kentucky fall behind by 18 points before rallying to within three, 39-36 at halftime. And three-point shooting fueled UK's rally. Darnell Dodson, who went to the bench to make room for Wall in the starting lineup, made three three-pointers in the final six minutes.

That flurry keyed an 18-3 UK run in the final 6:50 of the half.

Three-point shooting propelled Miami to a 36-18 lead with 7:01 left. The Redhawks made eight of their first 10 shots from beyond the arc. Four straight three-point baskets put Miami ahead 36-18.

Winbush led the way. The junior forward from Shaker Heights, Ohio, made six of six three-point shots in an 18-point half. He made three of five Friday in Miami's loss at Towson.

Winbush came into this season billed as a good shooter. But he failed to show a good shooting eye last season, when he made 34 percent of his threes, just 39 percent of all shots and 50 percent of free throws.

That wasn't the Winbush who torched Kentucky.

"That's the most fun I've ever had playing basketball in my life," Winbush said.

Although Winbush finally missed (a three-point shot from the right side in the second half's first two minutes), Miami eased ahead 45-38 with less than 16 minutes left.

Kentucky finally tied it on a freak play. A Miami player cut to the basket and tried to take a pass. Somehow, the ball popped out and went across halfcourt. That's where Wall scooped it up and drove unmolested to a high-rising dunk.

That tied it at 52 with 7:57 left. That marked the first time since 11:55 of the first half that the Cats did not trail.

Kentucky scored its first 18 points of the second half on plays in the paint or free throws off drives.

When the heretofore invisible Darius Miller swished a three-pointer from the left corner, UK led 57-52 with 7:04 left. That matched the Cats' biggest lead.

But Miami did not crack, thanks in part to a clutch three-pointer by Hayes, who made it in front of his bench while being fouled by Wall. The four-point play killed any thoughts of Kentucky pulling away.

"We wanted to be David tonight," Winbush said, "and I think we could have done it."

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