No. 3 Kentucky rallies to escape Cleveland St. upset
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
Andrew Harrison's three-point play broke a 57-all tie before twin brother Aaron followed with a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining, helping No. 3 Kentucky escape stubborn Cleveland State 68-61 on Monday night.
Trailing 54-44 with 7:41 remaining and needing a breakthrough against the Vikings, the brothers helped the Wildcats close with a 24-7 run including a pair of Aaron Harrison lobs inside to Willie Cauley-Stein for dunks along with a three-point play with 3:55 left to tie it at 54.
After Bryn Forbes' 3-pointer provided a 57-56 lead, Cauley-Stein made one of two free throws before Andrew Harrison followed with his drive and free throw. Aaron Harrison added a 3-point for a six-point lead.
Andrew Harrison scored 12 as the brothers combined for 23.
Julius Randle led Kentucky (5-1) with 15 points and 15 rebounds on a night the Wildcats shot just 36 percent.
Forbes' 22 points led the Vikings (3-3).
Cauley-Stein finished with 11 points for Kentucky, which shot just 19 of 53 from the field.
Trey Lewis added 15 points and Sebastian Douglas 13 for Cleveland State, which started both halves shooting well but wilted down the stretch and was outrebounded 42-35.
Kentucky's strong finish seemed unlikely late in the game as it struggled to make headway against a Vikings team that led by as many as 11 and seemed to answer every Wildcats charge with a basket that silenced the crowd.
Then came the Wildcats' final flourish that ended a tense game featuring five ties and six lead changes, prompting 21,067 to give the Vikings a standing ovation after the final buzzer.
Kentucky was playing for the first time since last Tuesday's 29-point rout of UT Arlington, but there wasn't much down time as coach John Calipari used the break to teach his talented youngsters the finer points of defense. Besides teaching the zone, his main point was getting the Wildcats to play through the entire defensive possession instead of standing around.
Whatever Kentucky learned during a weekend of instruction seemed to be initially forgotten as the Wildcats' all-freshmen starting line was outhustled by the Vikings, who beat them for a couple of easy baskets inside. Cleveland State leading scorer Bryn Forbes them burned them for a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the arc because of a failed switch.
The Vikings had several of those moments in making five of their first six from the field and 6 of 10 en route to a 19-12 lead that created a nervous murmur in the Rupp Arena crowd.
Kentucky battled back with a 15-5 run for a 27-24 lead but Cleveland State scored the final seven points of the half thanks to Forbes' three free throws after being fouled by Dominique Hawkins. That gave him and Sebastian Douglas 10 points each at the break for the Vikings, who shot just 11 of 32 (34 percent) but outscored Kentucky 12-8 on second-chance points and matched the Wildcats in the paint (14-14).
Kentucky meanwhile missed all six attempts from long range and were 7 of 26 overall (27 percent) in the first half, a struggled that continued with a 2-of-7 start to the second half. Cleveland State meanwhile began the half strongly like the first to build its biggest lead at 44-33 with 14:11 and forcing Calipari to call timeout.
The Wildcats responded to get within 47-44 with 9:21 left on two Randle free throws but the Vikings kept going at Kentucky as Trey Lewis banked a shot over two defenders while Douglas sank a 3-pointer for an eight-point lead at 52-44.
Kentucky played without reserve forward Jon Hood, who sustained a head injury in Saturday's practice and is being evaluated on a daily basis.