- Wednesday, November 25 2009 -
Cancun Challenge Championship (at Cancun, Mexico)
Kentucky - 73 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
Stanford - 65 (Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Stanford 38, Kentucky 32
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Cleveland State 73 - 49|||||UNC Asheville 94 - 57|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats fight back, beat Stanford in OT
CANCUN, Mexico - John Wall gave Kentucky a second chance and his teammates took advantage to help the Cats bring home hardware from their trip to the sandy beaches of the Mexican coast.
The Cats escaped a gritty Stanford team for a 73-65 overtime victory in front of 1,425 fans at the Moon Palace Resort. Wall's career-high 23 points helped earn him Most Valuable Player honors in the tournament.
Wall hit a fadeaway 12-foot jumper from the right wing to tie the game at 61 with 30.6 seconds remaining in regulation and calmly swished two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to send the game into the extra period. Fellow freshman Eric Bledsoe hit an NBA length three with 33.0 seconds left in the extra period to give Kentucky a 69-65 lead it would not relinquish as the Wildcats scored the final eight points and held Stanford without a field goal in overtime.
"I think we've got two guys when the game is on the line they are not afraid to make plays, which bodes well for us," UK coach John Calipari said. "You saw once again that late in the game I'm not calling a timeout, I don't need to be a hero, let those guys be the hero.
"Those two guys have the killer (instinct). What you want is the guys with the killer to bleed onto the others, just a will to win."
The ending gave the Cats their second great escape of the season, with Wall playing Houdini in both. The freshman hit a game-winner with 0.5 seconds left to beat Miami (Ohio) in his first collegiate game before his heroics against Stanford.
"NBA, that's all I've got to say," forward Patrick Patterson said of Wall's heroics. "John Wall is a pro player and he wants the ball in crunch time situations. Whenever we need a basket or something on the offensive end John is going to be the one to do it."
Stanford's Landry Fields, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, was fouled by Ramon Harris during a scramble and hit both ends of a one-and-one to give Stanford a 63-61 lead with 28.2 seconds in regulation before Wall helped save the Wildcats.
Calipari, as is his custom, eschewed a timeout and went to freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins, who was fouled on the block. The 53.6 percent free throw shooter missed the first free throw and the second on purpose but fouled Stanford's Jarrett Mann on the rebound. Mann then missed both of his free throw attempts, setting up a final flurry where Wall drew a blocking call on Stanford's Andrew Zimmermann with 2.4 seconds left. Wall then calmly swished both free throws to tie the game for the third time fourth time in the game's final three minutes.
"I wasn't nervous. I was just confident with it and came through by making the two free throws," Wall said. "Coach Cal teaches his great point guards how to finish games out. I like that because it doesn't give the defense time to set up and they've got guys scrambling."
Stanford opened the scoring in the overtime and took but found itself down 66-65 when UK called timeout with 40.2 seconds on the game clock and just 14 on the shot clock. Bledsoe, who had taken just three shots to that point, drained a cold-blooded NBA-length three with 33.0 seconds left to give the Cats a 69-65 lead it would not relinquish.
"I knew this would be a good game because they would grind it out, make basketball plays and they have two guys who can play with anybody," Calipari said. "At halftime I told them that two guys had all the points and my guys were acting like they didn't know that.
"I just want to see a will to win."
The coach has certainly seen it in his latest budding star.
Daniel Orton (#33) and Patrick Patterson (#54) defend against Stanford's Landry Fields
Ramon Harris prepares to release a floater
Darius Miller shoots