UK Men's Basketball

Can-do Cats conquer Cancun

CANCUN, Mexico — Winning its first five games by an average of 16.2 points probably diluted Kentucky Coach John Calipari's message to play every possession with urgency.

A 73-65 overtime victory over Stanford on Wednesday night surely drove home that message.

UK needed clutch plays — and plenty of them — to win the Cancun Challenge.

Ramon Harris, whom UK listed as day-to-day before the game because of a knee injury sustained Tuesday against Cleveland State, drove for a basket in overtime and later hit a free throw with 1:27 left to put the Cats ahead 66-65.

Freshman Eric Bledsoe, who had taken only three shots earlier in the game, swished a long three-pointer with 33 seconds left to seal the victory.

Kentucky (6-0) was led by another freshman, John Wall, whose career-high 23 points and floor game led him to be named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Darius Miller and DeMarcus Cousins added 13 each. Patrick Patterson, who had a cortisone shot to ease the pain of an ankle sprained against Cleveland State, contributed a double-double (12 points and 11 rebounds).

Calipari noted how a coach can learn about his team and his players in a pressure-cooker game.

"I think we've got two guys who are not afraid to make plays," he said of Wall and Bledsoe. Later, the UK coach added Harris and Patterson to the freshman guards as players who won his trust.

Landry Fields led Stanford with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Jeremy Green scored 18. Each was named to the All-Tournament team, but playing 45 (Fields) and 44 minutes (Green) drained the pair down the stretch.

Stanford (3-3) missed a chance to ice the game with 9.5 seconds left. Jarrett Mann, a 53.3-percent free-throw shooter this season, missed two to keep the Cardinal lead at 63-61.

Wall was fouled on the subsequent drive. His two free throws with 2.4 seconds left tied it and made the freshman 8-for-8 from the line in this game.

With Stanford Coach Johnny Dawkins' Duke ties inducing Christian Laettner flashbacks, Drew Shiller threw a long inbounds pass to Fields. UK deflected the pass off the glass and Wall secured the loose ball.

Dawkins saluted UK's clutch play. "For a young team, they showed a lot of poise," the Stanford coach said.

Before Mann's missed free throws, Kentucky appeared to have lost the game. Cousins went to the line with 10.6 seconds left and UK trailing 63-61. It marked his first free throw since throwing up an air ball more than eight minutes earlier.

His first bounced off the front of the rim. On the second, Cousins attempted to throw it hard off the rim and go get the rebound despite Calipari's order to make the shot.

"Miscommunication," Cousins said afterward.

Mann ended up with the rebound while Calipari had a conniption fit.

For only the second time this early season, Kentucky trailed at halftime. The Cats were down 39-36 to Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 16.

Scoring primarily by Fields and Green had UK behind 38-32 at halftime. Fields and Green, the team's two leading scorers, combined for 29 first-half points.

Fields, whose double-double (25 points and 13 rebounds) propelled Stanford by Virginia in Tuesday's semifinals, scored 15 points. Fueled by 4-for-4 shooting from beyond the three-point line, Green added 14 points.

Fields had to battle a revolving door of defenders. Kentucky players who took turns guarding him included Miller, Harris, Darnell Dodson (making his first appearance since the season's second game) and Josh Harrellson.

Green set the halftime score with a jumper over Dodson with 1:18 left. Green's sharpshooting led Stanford to a 5-for-8 first half from three-point range.

Patterson, who missed the final 18:56 of Tuesday's game against Cleveland State because of an ankle injury, played six ineffective minutes in the first half. Picking up two fouls by the 14:13 mark contributed to his quiet three-point, six-minute half.

As the second half began, Kentucky went inside to Patterson. He scored from the post on the first possession and later added a dunk off either a pass or badly missed shot by Harris.

Those plays got UK within 42-40 with 16:32 left.

Kentucky finally took the lead with 6:42 left.

Behind 53-49, Miller hit a three-pointer with 7:23 left. That marked UK's first trey of the second half.

After Green missed a three-point shot, Patterson posted strong for a layup that put the Cats ahead 54-53.

A post-up by Cousins put Kentucky ahead 56-53 with 5:08 left. That lead looked large because Stanford looked tired.

When Green and Fields shot from the perimeter, the ball hit only the front of the rim. Fields twice fumbled the ball away on drives.

Stanford switched to a zone, perhaps, in part, to conserve energy.

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