Kentucky ends Wichita State's quest for a perfect season

News-DemocratMarch 23, 2014 

— Wichita State's pursuit of perfection ended when Fred VanVleet's 3-point attempt from the top of the key clanked off the rim at the buzzer.

Freshman twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined to score 39 points as the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the No. 1-seeded and previously unbeaten Wichita State Shockers 78-76 Sunday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Scottrade Center.

The Shockers, who had already set an NCAA record for most wins to started a season, finished with a 35-1 record.

"It's just tough to end such an amazing run like this," Wichita State's Ron Baker said. "(We) lost to a very good team that came out and played well. And, I feel if they continue to play like that throughout the tournament, they'll be tough to beat."

It was a closely contested game with 14 lead changes, seven in each half.

"You all understand this was an Elite Eight game," Kentucky coach John Calipari said of the tough third-round matchup against the Shockers. "The winner of this should have gone to the Final Four."

The Wildcats (27-10) advance to the Sweet 16, where they'll meet the Louisville Cardinals on Friday in Indianapolis.

Andrew Harrison, the Wildcats' point guard, had a team-high 20 points and three assists even though his availability for the game had been in doubt because of an injured elbow.

"I was happy he played," Calipari said. "Without him, obviously you know now it would have been a different game. We couldn't have won the game."

Aaron Harris added 19 points. Julius Randle had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while James Young had 13 points and eight rebounds.

After VanVleet's shot came up short, the Wildcats literally jumped for joy as they ran off the court.

"All of the adversity we've been through all season, just to see us coming together as a team and finally getting a big win like that, we just enjoyed it," Randle said. "Everybody was happy, and we just have to keep building on it."

In a game filled with NBA prospects, Wichita State senior Cleanthony Early stood out.

Early poured in a game-high 31 points in his final college game. He was 12-for-17 from the field, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range.

"He rises to the occasion, doesn't he," Marshall said of Early. "On the big stage he plays the best. I am just sorry that his career is now over here, but I guarantee you his career his just starting at the next level. He is going to be a dynamite player."

Andrew Harrison sank two free throws to put Kentucky up 75-71 with 42 seconds to go.

Baker, who had 20 points, banked in a 3 with 29 seconds left to get the Shockers within 75-74.

After Randle and Early traded free throws, Andrew Harrison was fouled with seven seconds left. He made the first free-throw attempt, but missed the second.

The Shockers got the ball past half court and called a time-out with 3.2 seconds on the clock.

The Shockers ran a play off the inbounds designed with Early as one option, Baker as another option and finally VanVleet as a third option.

VanVleet let his shot fly with two defenders charging toward him.

"There was no magic shot at the end with (Christian) Laettner and (John) Pelphrey defending it and all that, but it had the makings of it with Fred's shot in the air," Marshall said, referring to Laettner's last-second turn-around jump shot that lifted Duke to a dramatic 104-103 victory over Kentucky in a 1992 regional final.

There were 19,676 fans at the Scottrade Center on Sunday, bringing the three-session total for the St. Louis regional to 56,894.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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