Kentucky is still undefeated.
The Wildcats moved to 38-0 by overcoming overcame a huge challenge from Notre Dame on Saturday in the Midwest Regional final in Cleveland, winning 68-66 to reach the Final Four for the fourth time in five years.
With the score tied at 66 and the clock winding down, Kentucky sophomore guard Andrew Harrison drove down the lane and drew a blocking foul. He made both free throws and the Wildcats then double-teamed Fighting Irish star Jerian Grant as he raced up the court. Grant's desperation three-pointer from the corner missed everything, sending Kentucky to Indianapolis.
That had seemed like a foregone conclusion all year, especially after the top-seeded Wildcats trounced West Virginia 78-39 on Thursday in the Sweet 16, but third-seeded Notre Dame played with a combination of talent and tenacity that Kentucky had arguably not faced all season.
The Irish were almost 11-point underdogs, but it was clear from the beginning that this game would be closer than that. The two teams traded the lead back and forth throughout the first half before and neither team led by more than three in the opening 20 minutes. A putback by the Wildcats' Trey Lyles shortly before the buzzer sent the teams into the break tied at 31.
Kentucky jumped to a five-point lead at 38-33 two minutes into the second half, but Notre Dame made it clear it would not go away, retaking the lead at 41-40 on a Zach Auguste dunk and going up by four on a dunk by Pat Connaughton at the 14:26 mark. The Irish pushed their lead to six with 6:16 to go on a three-pointer by Steve Vasturia, but then it was Kentucky's turn to respond.
Just like during last year's run to the national title game, it was the Harrison twins who were the heroes late. A dunk by Aaron Harrison–who made game-winning threes in the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four games last season—started the rally, and his three-pointer with 3:18 remaining put the Wildcats up by one. But with the shot clock about to hit zero on the next possession, Grant stole the lead right back for the Irish with his own shot from deep.
After a turnover by Aaron Harrison, Notre Dame had a 66-64 advantage and the ball with less than two minutes to go. But the Wildcats, the nation's stingiest defensive team, got a critical stop, and Karl-Anthony Towns tied the score with a jumper in the lane. UK's Willie Cauley-Stein blocked a three from Grant on the other end and the ball went out of bounds to Notre Dame with one second remaining on the shot clock and :38 seconds left on the game clock. The Irish turned it over, giving Kentucky the ball back, setting up the tense finish.
Celebs at College Basketball Games Over the Years
LeBron James at the 2015 Elite 8 game between Kentucky and Notre Dame, played in Cleveland.
Iggy Azalea, Nick Young
Iggy Azalea and boyfriend Nick Young at a 2015 game between UCLA and Southern California in Los Angeles.
Justin Timberlake at the Memphis Tigers-Kansas Jayhawks 2008 national championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Denzel Washington reacts as he watches Penn play Penn State in State College, Pa., in 2009. Washington's son Malcolm played at Penn.
Olivia Wilde, Jason Sudeikis
Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis at the Howard Bison and Kansas Jayhawks game in 2011 in Lawrence, Kansas.
Rob Lowe looks on during a 2012 game between the Western Washington Vikings and the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham.
Bill Murray at the 2010 quarterfinals of the Pac-10 tournament at Staples Center.
Jason Sudekis, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd
Jason Sudeikis, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd at the 2013 final between Louisville and Michigan at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Ashley Judd during the quarterfinals of the 2013 SEC tournament in Nashville.
Katie Holmes and her daughter Suri Cruise attend the 2014 East Regional Final between the Connecticut Huskies and the Michigan State Spartans at Madison Square Garden.
Vince Vaughn at the Louisville-Illinois national semifinal in 2005 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Meg Ryan, John Mellencamp
Meg Ryan and John Mellencamp during a 2011 game between Indiana and Ohio State in Bloomington, Ind.
Jim Belushi cheers on Southern Illinois against Kansas during a 2007 West Regional semifinal game in San Jose, Calif.
Will Ferrell during the 2013 Michigan-Syracuse game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
President Barack Obama attends a 2015 tournament game between Princeton and Green Bay at the XFINITY Center in College Park, Maryland.
Nick Lachey watches West Virginia face Xavier during a 2008 West Regional semifinal in Phoenix.
Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore
Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore at a 2008 game between Iowa-Iowa State in Iowa City.
Pamela Anderson seated courtside at the 2011 game between Michigan State and North Carolina aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) aircraft carrier docked in Naval Air Station North Island.
Mary Steenburger, Ted Danson
Ted Danson and his wife, Mary Steenburgen, watch Indiana play Maryland in the NCAA championship game in the Georgia Dome on April 1, 2002, in Atlanta.
Jaleel White at a 2011 game between Texas and the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
Phil Jackson and John Lithgow with UCLA mascot Joe Bruin at a 2014 game between the Arizona Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion.
President Obama and family
President Barack Obama enjoys some popcorn and watches the 2013 game between Oregon State and Akron with his family in Honolulu.
Mark Wahlberg sits courtside during a 2014 game between Southern California and UCLA in Los Angeles.
Tim Robbins at the UCLA-Florida national championship game in 2006 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
Erin Andrews and her "Dancing With The Stars" partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy watch Duke- Miami at the 2010 ACC tournament in Greensboro.
Tony Romo at a Duke game in 2015.
George, Laura Bush
Former president George W. Bush and wife Laura watch a 2014 game between SMU and Houston in Dallas.
Rob Riggle watches from behind head coach Bill Self and the Kansas bench during a 2014 game vs. Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.
Bill Clinton, Eddie Sutton
Former president Bill Clinton and former Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton during a 2014 game between Arkansas and LSU in Fayetteville, Ark.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a 2013 regional semifinal between Delaware and Kentucky in Bridgeport, Conn.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the 2013 Syracuse-Michigan game in Atlanta.
Drake attends the 2014 Final Four semifinal between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Spike Lee looks on from the stands during the 2014 Atlantic-10 championship game between Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Joseph at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers talks with golfer Andy North during the 2015 West Regional Semifinal between Wisconsin and North Carolina.
Jay-Z watches the 2011 action during the Kentucky Wildcats game against Louisville at Rupp Arena .
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin with his son as the Pitt Panthers take on the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2014 tournament at Amway Center in Orlando.
Recording artist Toby Keith acknowledges fans as he attends the 2014 game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Washington Huskies at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Singer Vince Gill watches the first half of the Siena and Vanderbilt game during a 2008 Midwest Regional first-round game in Tampa.
Rapper Lil Wayne watches the 2012 game between Notre Dame and Baylor in South Bend, Ind.
Actress Jami Gertz watches the 2005 Illinois/Louisville national semifinal with one of her sons at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Singer/drummer Dan Reynolds of the band Imagine Dragons attends a 2014 game between the Morehead State Eagles and the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Mayim Bialik of the hit tv show The Big Bang Theory and her ex-husband Michael Stone during a 2014 game between Cal and UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
The 6'11" Towns, one of the Wildcats' stellar freshmen, had a game-high 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, plus five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Auguste led Notre Dame with 20 points, also on 10-for-13 shooting, and nine rebounds. Kentucky shot 53.2% from the field and 4-for-8 from three-point range while committing 11 turnovers. The Irish made 46.4% from the field and had just seven turnovers but only hit 4-of-14 from outside. The Wildcats held a considerable size advantage, yet Notre Dame grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and had only one rebound less than Kentucky on the night.
Cauley-Stein was relatively quiet on offense with six points, but he and fellow 7-footer Dakari Johnson were menaces on defense with five combined blocks.
Kentucky will face Wisconsin on Saturday in a national semifinal, a rematch of last year's game in the same round in North Texas won by the Wildcats, who then lost to Connecticut in the final. Earlier on Saturday, the Badgers took down Arizona for the second straight year to win the West Regional.