Dominique Hawkins on his strategy defending the final play
Just like it did three years ago, Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game between the Kentucky Wildcats and Wichita State Shockers came down to one last shot.
UK guard Malik Monk hit two free throws with 10.6 seconds left to give the Cats a 65-62 lead — and set what would ultimately be the final score — and the Shockers, with no timeouts left, took the ball out of bounds to set up the final play.
Wichita State’s Conner Frankamp inbounded the ball to Landry Shamet, who had a game-high 20 points. De’Aaron Fox picked up Shamet deep in the backcourt and stayed with him all the way across halfcourt. Shamet dribbled in the direction of the Shockers’ bench, and that’s when 6-foot-7 forward Rashard Kelly set a screen on Fox. Dominique Hawkins took Shamet from there.
“There was a ball screen,” Hawkins said. “Me and Fox — we switched, and I ended up guarding the ball at the end.”
Hawkins, who has become known for his on-ball defense, hounded Shamet to the other side of the court and — without touching Shamet — made him take a jump-step backward as he dribbled. There were 2.5 seconds on the clock at that point, and the Wichita State guard was about 27 feet from the basket.
UK Coach John Calipari was asked afterward if he considered fouling in that situation.
“It entered my mind when they messed around with the ball, but I hadn’t said anything,” he said. “When it got down to four, five (seconds left), I’m thinking, ‘We gotta foul.’ Ten seconds is way too early, too many possessions left. I don’t like it with that time, but these guys guarded it. We knew what we were doing, switching everything and playing high.”
Shamet ducked back to his right and toward the basket, pump-faking as he moved.
Hawkins took the fake and left his feet, but he managed to jump straight up in the air — arms extended upward — controlling his body so that he wouldn’t make any contact with Shamet, a 45-percent three-point shooter and 80-percent free-throw shooter.
That’s where Bam Adebayo came in.
The UK big man had picked up Frankamp — the Shockers’ most prolific three-point shooter — after a screen at the top of the key on Isaiah Briscoe, who had been defending him. Adebayo was moving with Frankamp toward the corner, but he had his eyes on Shamet and left his man to move toward the shooter when he saw him pump-fake Hawkins.
“I actually didn’t know he was there,” Hawkins said of Adebayo’s help defense.
Adebayo left the floor a split-second after Shamet rose for the shot.
“He pump-faked. Dom jumped,” Adebayo said. “So I was like, ‘I gotta jump.’ And I ended up with the game-winning block.”
With 0.5 seconds on the clock, Adebayo’s right hand made clean contact with the ball. By the time it came back down, the buzzer had sounded and UK had secured the 65-62 victory.
Hawkins actually jumped a second time — after his first one on the pump-fake — and was asked after the game — and before replays of the final play had been widely spread — who actually got the blocked shot at the end.
“I got a little bit of it,” Hawkins said with a big grin. “Bam got most of it, but I got a little bit of it.”