In an All-Star classic that was a tale of two halves, it was fitting that Kentucky's bid to end Indiana's 13-game winning streak in the series ended with a blocked shot.
With eight seconds left, Kentucky's James "Beetle" Bolden attempted an ill-fated three from the top of the key that was swatted by Indiana's Jaelan Sanford. The ball bounced into the hands of Sanford, who raced down the court past an ecstatic Indiana crowd for a layup that placed an exclamation mark on Indiana's 83-80 victory.
The back-and-forth game played out before 785 fans in the Beck Center on the campus of Transylvania University.
"I didn't think in the very beginning we played well at all," Kentucky Coach James Haire said. "I think we were settling for too many threes. We shot 20 percent (from the field). I just knew if we kept attacking and kept playing we would get ourselves back in it and they did."
Kentucky did itself no favors in the first half as Indiana surged to an eight-point lead at halftime behind 10 points from guard Ryan Cline. His two threes helped Indiana build an 11-point lead late, but Kentucky hung tough behind the play of Manual's Dwayne Sutton, who scored 10 points to go with eight rebounds in the half.
Poor shooting on Kentucky's part helped Indiana slowly pull away late in the half. Kentucky shot just 23 percent from the field and 7 percent from three-point range.
"When we came out in the first half we were slow," said Bolden, who starred at Holmes and signed with West Virginia. "We got down big and that played a role in the game as it went on. We just didn't do the little things. Indiana beat us to loose balls and back on defense, which led to easy transition buckets."
Bolden finished the game with seven points and seven rebounds.
Each team was without its Mr. Basketball — Knott County Central's Camron Justice and Caleb Swanigan for Indiana. Kentucky also had Louisville Trinity's Ray Spalding, a Louisville signee, as a late scratch.
"He's a quality player and things didn't work out for him to be here, and we're going to miss him," Haire had said of Spalding's absence.
The second half was a reversal of the first. Kentucky's Jalen Perry (Ballard) scored six straight points early to pull Kentucky to within three, and a putback by Justin Miller (Owensboro) tied the game at 53-all.
Peyton Woods (Wayne County) then gave Kentucky its first lead with 12 minutes to play.
"We rebounded harder and played defense harder," the Chattanooga-bound Woods said of the second half. "We did the little things right and that got us back in the game and got us the lead. We just couldn't finish it out."
Kentucky went on a 16-2 run midway through the second, but Indiana reasserted itself with a 8-0 run to regain the lead at 62-59 with 8:20 to go.
The play of Sutton, though, kept Kentucky within reach of an upset. The UNC-Asheville signee finished 16 points with 11 rebounds.
But it was a Cline layup with 25 seconds left that gave Indiana the lead for good at 81-80.
"It became a really fun game," Haire said. "We were a shot away from having it."