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By KEITH TAYLOR, The Winchester Sun
John Calipari looked past Andrew Harrison’s shooting performance in Kentucky’s 77-76 overtime win over LSU Saturday at Rupp Arena. He also wants Harrison not to dwell on his shot selection and final tally.
“I don’t want him to judge himself on shooting,” the Kentucky coach said. “You know what I told him after the game? We came out of that timeout and twice I ran a play for him to get a wide‑open shot on that wing and he missed. I said, ‘I’ll run it again for you because I know you can make that.’ Don’t you worry about missing. If we give you a play, you got to make it. So he’s getting better.”
Harrison made just three field goals on 13 attempts and scored nine points but Calipari was impressed with Harrison’s six rebounds, all on the defensive end, four assists and two blocked shots in his 39 minutes on the court. Harrison also made three free throws on four tries, including two with 10.9 seconds remaining in regulation that sent the game into overtime.”
Although Harrison, the team’s point guard, has the green light to pull the trigger when necessary, Calipari wasn’t happy with Harrison’s two jumpers, one of which was a 3-pointer, down the stretch prior to his crucial game-tying free throws in regulation against the Tigers.
“The jump shot that Andrew shot, I’m like, ‘why did you shoot a jumper?’” Calipari said. “Drive it.”
Harrison and his teammates listened to Calipari and did just that the remainder of the game. Following the two missed field goals, Harrison, James Young and Aaron Harrison starting driving to the basket in overtime, allowing the Wildcats to get to the free-throw line and foul out one of LSU’s top players. Kentucky native Anthony Hickey, who made four 3-pointers and finished with 20 points for the Tigers, fouled out with 24.7 seconds remaining in overtime, giving the Wildcats one less worry on defense.
Harrison said having Young and his brother as options on penetration plays helps relieve pressure and gives the Wildcats two extra options on the perimeter.
“Having those two — it’s great,” Harrison said. “They doubled Julius (Randle) and me (and) I couldn’t hit a shot to save my life. You just have to play through it. That’s what basketball is.”
Even though Harrison’s two free throws prevented a sweep and gave the Wildcats momentum, the Wildcats never felt comfortable until the final buzzer. Harrison said Kentucky was “definitely” worried about losing.
“Coach (Calipari) was saying that we are not losing,” he said. “When somebody says something like that, you have to believe it.”
Prior to the win over LSU, Kentucky had lost its previous extra period contest, an 87-85 loss at Arkansas on Jan. 14 in Fayetteville. Harrison said the team kept pushing each other to avoid a repeat for a second time this season.
“We all told each other during overtime that we are not losing this one, so we just kept coming,” Harrison said. “They hit some big shots in overtime but we just kept coming, kept fighting and kept swinging.”
The Wildcats, who have won two stright since a 69-59 loss to top-ranked Florida on Feb. 15, will try to avenge an earlier-season loss to the Razorbacks Thursday at Rupp Arena. Harrison said the extra-effort win over LSU gives the team more momentum going into the final stretch of the regular season, which includes road games at South Carolina and Florida and a home finale against Alabama.
“It’s a great confidence builder knowing that we can win down the stretch,” Harrison said. “We’ll juts have to try and get ready for Thursday.”