Kentucky had just given up a putback basket with 11 seconds left in overtime to tie Tuesday night’s game against Vanderbilt at 81-all, and, for a split-second, the young Cats looked a bit lost.
That’s when Quade Green took over.
As Kevin Knox slowly picked up the ball with the intent to inbound, Green turned, looked at him and put his hands up. The basketball body language said, “Give it to me.”
Knox did just that, Green glanced upcourt, took it all in, and then he was off.
“You should have a quick mindset,” he said after the game. “A quick IQ. That’s all a basketball player needs, really. I see the floor. I know there’s eight seconds left, so I just went …”
Green blew by Vanderbilt’s Saben Lee with his first move and started upcourt. As his teammates jogged in the same direction, all eyes were on the freshman point guard.
“I threw it to Quade, he was open, I went down the wing and I saw he kept going,” Knox said. “Nobody stopped the ball.”
Right about the moment Green hit halfcourt, Vandy’s Riley LaChance drifted down from the top of the key toward the wing where Green was dribbling. At that point, it looked like Green would have to settle for a jumper or give up the ball.
Instead, he kept dribbling with his right hand, quickly stepped in the direction away from where LaChance was drifting, and flew right by him.
“He just didn’t want no part of me driving. I thought he was going to take a charge — that’s why I hopped like that,” Green said.
That left no one between Green and the basket, and he coasted in for an easy layup to put Kentucky up 83-81 and set the final score with 4.3 seconds left.
The Rupp Arena crowd — quiet for much of the night — exploded.
“It was a crazy feeling,” Green said. “It was loud in there. Like, loud. That was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard it.”
The freshman didn’t celebrate right away. There were still a few seconds on the clock, after all.
Green jumped back across the baseline and swatted at LaChance’s inbound pass, then trailed the play down the court. It ended with Payton Willis’ miss from three-point range at the buzzer.
Right as Green gave the slightest of fist pumps, teammate PJ Washington excitedly shoved him with all his might from behind.
“I wasn’t paying attention,” Green said with a smile. “He just pushed me, and I just fell. I turned around and saw Jonny (David) running at me, then everybody was on me. Everybody pushing me down on the ground.”
UK assistant coach Kenny Payne was also smiling after the game.
“I don’t know exactly how many seconds were on that clock when he got the layup, but how about his poise?” Payne said. “There’s a lot other things that he could have done and he had the poise to drive that ball to the basket and roll the ball over somebody’s head and lay it in the basket. I mean, that shows his maturity as a player and he made a big play in a tough situation.”
Green said afterward that the celebratory dogpile — a rare sight for Rupp Arena — was his first. He was laughing even as his teammates — 240-pound Nick Richards among them — splashed on top of him.
“My blood was flowing, so I was good,” Green said, still smiling 30 minutes later.
And if a similar opportunity arises in the future?
“I’m shooting that shot,” he said. “Always. I’ve always had that mindset. I like taking the big shots.”
No. 21 Kentucky at Missouri
2 p.m. EDT Saturday (CBS-27)