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Cats needed a game like this

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Every single thing wasn't in the script. Every single thing.

Miami (Ohio), which lost to Towson last week, was supposed to get blown out by Kentucky, the very same team that is supposed to march to the Final Four come April.

The RedHawks weren't supposed to rain 3-pointers (an opponent Rupp Arena record 15 treys) like a winter day in Seattle. The Mid-American team wasn't supposed to be up 18 midway through the first half against one of the nation's picks to cut down the nets. With 23,337 screaming fans screaming in his ears, Kenny Hayes wasn't supposed to pull up from 24 feet away and drill a 3-pointer to tie the game.

But more than anything, John Wall, already a superstar before playing a single collegiate minute, wasn't supposed to come off an NCAA suspension and cement himself into UK lore.

Yes, UK lore. Instant legend. One of the all-time greatest debuts.

MBSK 09_10 UK_Clarion 35.jpgNo matter what happens in Wall's career, he has forever etched himself among the UK greats with what will soon be one of the most immortalized shots in recent program history.

In his first career action, Wall hit the game-winner, nailing a step-back 15-foot jumper with 0.5 seconds on the clock. The final two points of Wall's team-high 19 points sealed an unthinkable 72-70 win over Miami at Rupp Arena on Monday night.

"I was kind of nervous," said Wall, who, coincidence or not, has been working on that shot with assistant coach Rod Strickland over the last few days. "With six seconds left, coach just said 'Make a play.'

And oh, did he make a play.

Wall is supposed to be a star, but not quite a legend. At least not yet. He's not supposed to put his name along the likes of Dan Issel, Tony Delk and Jamal Mashburn, but quite frankly, he might have already done it in terms of all-time memories.

"With the hype he had, it's all true. John Wall is legit. He's the real deal," freshman forward DeMarcus Cousins said. "There's no guard out there better than him. I said to him after the game, 'John, you just started your legacy.' "

With a Jodie Meeks-like shot (one that was eerily similar to Meeks' step-back jumper against Florida a year ago from about 10 feet farther on the floor), Wall epitomized a game that was everything it wasn't supposed to be, but everything it needed to be.

UK needed a scare. It needed to be down 18. It needed to take a look in the mirror.
 
 "I was ecstatic we got down by 18 because I wanted to see what we were made of," head coach John Calipari said.

What they were made of was grit, heart and a gutty resolve they will need come March and April. Forget the score. Forget the opponent. UK was going to have to be brought down to Earth at some point whether it was the second game of the season or the 22nd.

It needed to find out who it would go to in the final minutes of the game. It had to discover how junior Patrick Patterson, really the only veteran player who plays significant minutes, would mesh with a bunch of immature, inexperienced players when the pressure mounted on his shoulders.

With all the expectations Wall had coming in, we needed to figure out how he would react when the game was on the line. When adversity (and foul trouble) hit Cousins, we needed to know how he would respond.

Kentucky fans found out, albeit in a circumstance they might not have wanted or predicted.

The Cats think they're always going to win. They know they're going to win.

"When this team wouldn't go away, the thing I loved in every huddle is my team was saying, 'We're not losing this. We're not losing this game.' " Calipari said. "We needed this."

Said Patterson: "I wouldn't necessarily say 'need' - I don't know if we needed it or not - but I'm glad that it happened because it shows we're a tough team. We'll fight when we're down in situations like that."

They fought, clawed and scrapped. Eighteen down. Forget about it. A freshman, Wall, playing in his first game. Who cares? Another freshman, Cousins, in foul trouble all first half. So what?

That first freshman responded with a legendary shot and the other dominated the second half and finished with a double-double.

"You've got to have catalysts," Calipari said.

Those catalysts overcame an almost surreal shooting night by Miami. Whether there was air in front of them, a Perry Stevenson hand or a 15-foot brick wall, the RedHawks, in particular Nick Winbush (26 points; 8-of-10 3-point shooting), made everything.

Yet somehow UK overcame all of it and pulled out a nail-biter that was never supposed to happen.

"Let me see hear, the Kentucky Wildcats, No. 4 in the country, I'm hearing four first-round draft picks, and you're asking how it got away from me?" Miami head coach Charlie Coles said. "Before the game, all I heard was this and that. They started playing. They're the Big Blue."

It wasn't supposed to happen, but it did and it needed to. When it mattered most, as Coles said, Big Blue - made up largely of 18- and 19-year-old kids - arose.

"Other than Patrick, we're all young," Calipari said. "Think about this, folks. (We're) all freshmen and sophomores and Patrick, being down 18 at home, you're supposed to win every game by 37 points and you don't fold. You just fight back and play.

"I'm proud of them."

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Talk about a debut!!!!

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