Indiana Bests No. 1 Kentucky, 73-72
Dec. 10, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Christian Watford's buzzer-beating shot Saturday night put Indiana right back on the basketball map.
He never even got to see whether the buzzer-beating 3-pointer counted.
With students pouring onto the court and officials scrambling to reach the scorer's table for a replay review, Watford's teammates and Indiana's fans didn't even bother waiting for the call. They already knew Indiana's 73-72 upset of No. 1 Kentucky would hold up.
"I thought it was good, so I would have been like stunned if it wasn't," said coach Tom Crean, who stood next to the officials, pressed up against the table. "And I have no idea how we would have got that game finished if it wasn't."
He wasn't joking and, fortunately, nobody had to figure out how to get everyone back in the stands.
A few minutes later, when the call finally came, Crean pumped his fast and went racing through the crowd, looking for his wife and kids.
He wasn't the only one trying to get through the chaos. Victor Oladipo went into the stands looking for his mother, who had traveled from Maryland to watch. And Watford still had to get up after hitting the deck, looking up and seeing all the students, signs and raw emotion around him.
"I was scared for him because there were people all over him," said Jordan Hulls, a Bloomington native and the only player on the roster who could remember such a crazy scene at Assembly Hall.
The last time it happened was Jan. 7, 2001, when Kirk Haston hit a buzzer-beating 3 from the right wing to beat No. 1 Michigan State. The only difference this time was that it came from the left wing.
But it still gave Indiana the biggest win of Crean's four seasons in Bloomington.
"It felt great," Watford said of the shot after scoring the last of his 20 points. "You can't really tell if it's going in. But I got it off, it felt great, it looked like I got enough rotation on it and it went in."
Indiana is 9-0 for the first time since 1989-90 and on its way to the first winning season under Crean. It's the first time the Hoosiers have upset a No. 1 since taking down Duke 74-73 in the 2002 NCAA tournament, and it's only the second time they've beaten a top-ranked team at Assembly Hall.
Kentucky (8-1) will likely lose its hold on the top spot this week after a two-week reign. John Calipari lost for the only the second time in seven games against Crean, and for the first time in this series.
There was plenty for him to critique.
Anthony Davis missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19.9 seconds to go. Doron Lamb, who led the Wildcats with 19 points, missed the first of two free throws with 5.6 seconds left. And with two fouls to give on Indiana's last possession, the Wildcats couldn't get close enough to draw even one.
Instead, Verdell Jones dribbled into the frontcourt, toward the corner, then stopped and flipped the ball back to an open Watford, who made his fourth 3 of the game with picture-perfect form.
"Marquis Teague tried to foul and they didn't call it. No one fouled," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We had two fouls to give. Two. We're fouling once and if they throw it half-court just make sure they're not in a shooting motion, we're going to foul again. ... Maybe they thought 'I'm not fouling, the time is going to run out,' I don't know."
The game was every bit as wild as the crowd.
Students began lining up outside the arena 10 hours before tipoff and raced into their seats as soon as the doors opened. Before the game even started, the public address announcer already had to scold the students for chanting profanely at Kentucky.
When the game started, it was a typical rivalry game.
But it was the closing stretch that became so captivating.
Indiana led 63-53 with 9:03 to play, their second 10-point lead of the game and Kentucky's largest deficit all season. But the Wildcats rallied to retake the lead at 69-68 with 2 minutes to play.
In the final stretch, the lead changed three more times -- when Watford put in a layup with 1:07 to go and when Teague followed that with a driving layup to give Kentucky a 71-70 lead with 48.8 seconds to go.
Then after Kentucky missed two of its final three free throws, Watford hit the shot that revived Indiana basketball and sent four players atop the scorer's table to lead the cheers.
"I hate to lose, but if I'm to lose, losing to Tommy is fine because what he's done here in four years and having to do it the way he did it where you're undermanned and now you're trying to fight," Calipari said. "For him to have this happen for him and his family, I'm happy for them. They deserve to win the game."
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 18 points for the Wildcats, who also had 17 turnovers and gave up a season-high point total.
Oladipo had 13 points and five Hoosiers wound up in double figures.
Crean got the first Gatorade bath of his Indiana tenure and Watford got the memory of a lifetime.
"I haven't felt anything like that," Watford said. "That's probably the biggest moment of my life."
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