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1 Kentucky wildcats on Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:44 am


Finally pulled this one out

* Miami at Kentucky
* Stats: Kentucky 72, Miami (Ohio) 70

LEXINGTON, Ky. — You may have heard that John Wall is Superman.

The University of Kentucky freshman point guard didn't waste much time in making his first rescue.

Wall's game-winning jump shot — a step-back 12-footer with 0.5 seconds to play — gave the Wildcats a 72-70 win against upset-minded Miami of Ohio on Monday night at Rupp Arena in his first collegiate game.

It was part of a 19-point performance for Wall in the most-hyped debut in recent memory. And in his first game, the nation's No.1-ranked high school recruit saved his best for last.

* Miami at Kentucky
* Stats: Kentucky 72, Miami (Ohio) 70

“It looked good when it left my hand,” Wall said. “When it hit the bottom of the net, it was a relief.”

It was the end of a thrill-a-minute game, and — to hear teammate DeMarcus Cousins tell it — the start of something big for Wall as a household name.

“Everybody's looking for that opportunity to say, ‘I knew he wasn't all that. I knew he wasn't what everybody said,'” Cousins said after the game. “John is legit. Everything you hear is legit.”

Patrick Patterson (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Cousins (10 and 10) had double-doubles for the Cats, but this game was all about Wall's opening night.

For much of the evening, however, it looked as if Miami might reduce Wall's first game to a footnote of a historic upset.

The RedHawks made 15of26 three-pointers, including an 8-for-10 night from forward Nick Winbush. Both of those are record highs for made threes by a UK opponent at Rupp Arena.

Miami led by 18 in a sizzling first half. And when UK (2-0) threatened to pull away late, the RedHawks (0-2) wouldn't hear of it.

Trailing most of the game, the Cats looked poised to take control after a string of five straight points late in the second half. A Cousins tip-in with 7:24 to play and a Darius Miller three-pointer 17 seconds later put UK ahead 57-52 and sent 23,337 fans at Rupp into a frenzy.

It wouldn't last.

Miami answered with a four-point play — point guard Kenny Hayes hit a three-pointer and drew a foul from Wall — and cut the lead to 57-56.

The RedHawks reclaimed the lead, 62-61, with 4:03 left on a free throw by Antonio Ballard, and they led 65-63 after a Winbush three with 3:27 to go.
(2 of 2)

UK led by three with 19 seconds left after Wall made 1of2 free throws, but on Miami's ensuing possession, Hayes hit an open three to tie it at 70 with six seconds to play.

That's when Wall kicked it into high gear.

“He had one thought,” UK coach John Calipari said. “Win the game.”

Wall raced upcourt, started his drive, then went to a step-back shot, a move he said he'd been working on with UK assistant coach Rod Strickland in recent weeks.

* Miami at Kentucky
* Stats: Kentucky 72, Miami (Ohio) 70

“He's fast, and he's good,” said Hayes, who hightailed it downcourt after his three-pointer. “It was contested. He just hit a big-time shot.”

Miami made them all night, too.

The RedHawks hit 10of16 three-pointers in the first half and surged ahead 36-18 before an 18-3 UK run closed the gap to 39-36 at halftime. In the locker room, Calipari told his team, “If we get beat, it won't be because of the three.”

But Miami still nearly sank the Cats from long range.

Despite Wall's last-second super-heroics, the RedHawks tugged at his cape most of the night.

Wall, who made 4of9 shots and 10of14 free throws, had as many assists (five) as turnovers and at times struggled to find a rhythm, driving into congestion as Miami's defense sagged.

“I kind of went back to my high school days of when you get down, you try to do it yourself,” Wall said. “Coach Cal took me out and told me, ‘You can't do it by yourself. This is college.'”

Wall figured it all out — just in the nick of time — and made a play that Cousins said UK fans will remember as the start of Wall's legacy.

Some day, Cousins said, he'll tell his kids about it.

“John will probably be there to tell them, too,” he said.

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