INDIANAPOLIS — OK, so maybe they’re not the quickest learners. Still, the kids at Kentucky figured out Louisville just in time.
Aaron Harrison hit a 3-pointer for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds left and Julius Randle made a pair of clutch free throws to lift the fantastic freshman of Kentucky to a 74-69 victory over their in-state rivals.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) led for a grand total of 65 seconds in this Midwest Regional semifinal. They’ll play Michigan on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
Few expected a run this deep as this season played out and Kentucky’s five freshmen starters struggled to play a team game. But they’ve been learning slowly. Trailing by seven with 4½ minutes left, things kicked in again.
Actually, it was a sophomore, Alex Poythress, who scored five points in a 7-0 run that tied the game at 66 inside of 2 minutes. Then, it was the Kentucky freshmen who showed all the poise against the defending national champs, led by seniors Russ Smith (23 points) and Luke Hancock (19).
Harrison took a pass from Julius Randle and spotted up in the corner for the go-ahead shot. Both finished with 15 points, as did yet another freshman starter, Dakari Johnson.
On the next possession, Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear got fouled. The 71 percent career free throw shooter missed the first. Randle came down and made two free throws. Smith missed a tough look at a 3-pointer on the next possession and a few seconds later, the Wildcats were chest bumping and coach John Calipari was pumping his fists to a loud stadium full of blue.
Michigan State 61
NEW YORK — Branden Dawson had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Michigan State beat top-seeded Virginia 61-59 on Friday night to advance to East Regional final.
The fourth-seeded Spartans (29-8) will play Connecticut (29-8) on Sunday with a Final Four berth at stake. The seventh-seeded Huskies beat third-seeded Iowa State 81-76 on Friday.
Michigan State overcame a horrible start to the second half and then withstood a late run by the Cavaliers (30-7) to advance to the regional finals for the eighth time since 1985 — all under coach Tom Izzo.
Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogden both had 17 points for Virginia, which became the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated, joining Wichita State.
These were the first NCAA tournament games played at Madison Square Garden since 1961.