Indiana 73, Kentucky 72

Indiana knocks off No. 1 Kentucky on last-second three-pointer, 73-72

Hoosiers knock off No. 1 Kentucky on Watford's buzzer-beating three

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 11, 2011 

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Because he hadn't been here in five years, the Pied Piper of college basketball, Dick Vitale, had to ask before the game where ESPN's telecast team would sit. That half decade represented the time Indiana had wandered the roundball wilderness.

Assembly Hall, which IU calls the Carnegie Hall of the sport, rocked like a cellar full of noise Saturday. In this big red canyon of an arena, the Hoosiers sought to end their irrelevancy by beating No. 1 Kentucky.

Junior forward Christian Watford became IU's Moses by hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Kentucky 73-72 Saturday.

The shot from the left wing sent a red sea of delirious Hoosier fans stampeding to the court and a stunned Kentucky team slowly retreating to the locker room.

IU Coach Tom Crean said he took time to absorb what he called "one of those moments everybody's going to remember."

UK Coach John Calipari said he was proud of his inexperienced team giving itself a chance to win despite the most electric homecourt disadvantage Kentucky has faced in years.

"I'm speechless," IU's Victor Oladipo said in the safety of the post-game interview room. "Did you see how many people were in there? I couldn't see my mother. It was so loud, my head is still hurting."

For Kentucky, which rallied from a nine-point deficit with less than eight minutes left, the defeat was partially self-inflicted.

Marquis Teague's drive by Jordan Hulls — UK attacked IU's guards all day — gave Kentucky a 71-70 lead with 48.8 seconds left.

The Cats missed a chance to extend that lead when Anthony Davis missed his only free throw attempt, the front end of a one-and-one with 19 seconds left.

Indiana called time with 13.9 seconds left to plot the winner. But Oladipo lost the ball on the drive, giving UK another chance to seal it.

This time Doron Lamb missed the first of two free throws with 5.6 seconds left. IU called time.

After Lamb made the second, IU rushed upcourt, handing the ball to Watford on the left wing. He rose immediately and swished the shot.

"We were going to foul," Calipari said. "We had two fouls to use. So the whole time out was about fouling."

But UK, which was whistled for four second-half fouls, did not foul.

"When Marquis tried to foul and they didn't call it, no one fouled," Calipari said. "... I have no idea what went through our minds. Maybe they thought, 'I'm not fouling. Time will run out.' I don't know."

Indiana (9-0) expected Kentucky to foul.

"That was the first thing (assistant) Coach (Tim) Buckley told me," said Verdell Jones, who made the pass to Watford. "He just missed me."

Watford, who inbounded the ball, led all scorers with 20 points. "When I took the ball out, I guess they kind of forgot abut me," he said.

Inbounding the ball from under UK's offensive basket made precise planning impossible. "We couldn't draw any big play," freshman standout Cody Zeller said.

When UK prevented a long inbounds, IU improvised. Watford's shot arched high in the air, counter-clockwise rotation tight, and zipped through as the buzzer sounded.

"The vivid image for me was how picture perfect the shot was," Crean said. "... A perfectly fundamentally formed shot."

As against North Carolina last weekend, Kentucky trailed at halftime. But the 30-29 margin represented a triumph of sorts given UK's foul trouble, a missing-in-action Terrence Jones and the eight-point deficit with less than two minutes left in the half.

A sign of an unusual and inspired opponent came early when Zeller blocked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's usually automatic drive in transition.

An 11-0 run put Indiana ahead 45-35 with 15:55 left. Will Sheehey capped the run with a rhythm three-pointer in transition.

Although Jones' funk and Davis' foul trouble continued, Kentucky did not roll over.

Trailing 66-57 with less than eight minutes left, Kentucky turned up the defense. IU missed seven straight shots, going scoreless for more than four minutes.

Kentucky slowly chipped into the deficit, closing within 66-65 on Kidd-Gilchrist's post-up with 4:09 left.

After a timeout, Indiana went to Watford, who drove by Jones for a layup. That continued Jones' miserable afternoon and set up the dramatic finish.

Of the game-winner, Verdell Jones noted how Watford served as a trailer. Crean believed his senior guard would drive for a shot.

But Verdell Jones heard Watford.

"He yelled 'V! V!,'" Verdell Jones said. "I passed to him. The rest was history."

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