By Austin Fraley
UK fans held their breath Saturday afternoon as Andrew Harrison shot a free throw in the final 20 seconds of the game attempting a tie, which eventually sent the game into overtime.
While the Cats got off to a rough start in both halves against the Louisiana State University Tigers, they eventually gained the victory. Things weren’t looking hopeful when, within the first three minutes of the game, the scoreboard read 6-0 in the Tigers’ favor. It took Coach John Calipari calling a time out and pumping them up to get the players’ heads in the game.
Once he did, however, they were off and running with a consistent lead over LSU for most of the first half. Undoubtedly, much of this encouragement came from the coach as well as the fans, who flooded Rupp Arena in a sea of blue, with red speckles every now and then throughout the stadium. If any UK player looked up they were indisputably putting themselves in a position of encouragement, and if any LSU player looked up, it was equal discouragement. Saturday, the color of Lexington itself was blue.
In the second half, the Cats again got off to a rough start, but this time when they caught up, the Tigers did not back down. Through and through it was a true back and forth. As soon as one team had the upper hand by just two points, the other team would tie. Decisive moments came in the fouls of the final five minutes of the game, which resulted in the free throw that sent the game into overtime.
Johnny O’Bryant started out overtime and it culminated in the familiar close war that had raged just five minutes prior to this tension, until the ball got to Julius Randle. UK fans were audibly fretting after LSU gaining the upper hand with just 30 seconds left in overtime. One could feel the communal terror while watching the ball run in the opposite direction of where the vast majority of the arena desired it to be. After UK got the ball back to its own goal, there were several attempts at shooting a basket before Randle finally got the game-winning basket, with just 12 seconds left on the clock.
The arena erupted into cathartic communal shouting and screaming, the waves of blue crashing from side to side. LSU quickly appropriated the ball and in a last-ditch effort to win the game, attempted a three-pointer as UK fans again held their breath silently. It would have made it in when the buzzer rang, but the Wildcats must have had the gods on their side, as the ball almost willingly bounced off the basket.
The arena erupted into excitement from the fans, who had helped to distract the opposing team’s free throw shooters and garnered silencefor those of their home team. Randle, the savior of the team in the game’s final moments, stated: “Plenty of times we could have put our head down. There was a time when we did put our head down. We could have said ‘Just forget it’ and lost the game. But we didn’t. We kept fighting” (Source: Kentucky.com).
The final score of the game was a close one, with UK at 77 points and LSU at 76.
One could only imagine what the game would have been like had it gone into double overtime.