Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight wasn’t surprised Princeton took the Wildcats down to the wire in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.
“I knew they were going to fight for their lives,” he said. “They are a great team, and they came out and battled us to the end.”
Although Knight made just one basket the entire contest, the freshman guard came though when he banked in a driving layup that sent the Wildcats to a 59-57 triumph over the Tigers and into the third round. Kentucky will take on West Virginia Saturday. It was the Mountaineers who ousted Kentucky from the Big Dance last season to earn a ticket to the Final Four.
Knight made the rematch happen when Kentucky coach John Calipari called his number down the stretch.
“I know that coach has faith in me no matter how much time is on the clock,” he said.
Kentucky junior Darius Miller wasn’t surprised by Knight’s late heroics.
“He made a big play, especially for a freshman he made a big play in his first NCAA (Tournament) and finished,” he said. “So it was a very aggressive play, a very tough play, so we're just happy to have him on the team.”
Despite making the game-winning shot, Knight said the biggest accomplishment was the ability to extend the team’s beyond the second round. Earlier in the day, Morehead State stunned in-state rival Louisville in Denver, Colorado.
“I am just happy we won the game, that is the most important thing,” he said. “I just wanted to be aggressive and not settle for a jump shot. I was able to get in the lane and finish.”
Knight said the final play was simple.
“It was just pick and roll and we just wanted to see what we could get out of it,” he said. “Darius (Miller) had been hot and I thought they shaded to him, so I just took it.”
Knight, admitted that his tournament debut was “tough as far as shooting,” but wanted to make an impact without scoring the ball.
“As far as other aspects, I was trying just to affect the game in other ways,” he said.
He added that he wasn’t distracted by the lack of production in the scoring column, but was more interested in filling his role as the team’s point guard.
“I wasn’t focused on (scoring),” he said. “I was just focusing on running the team and getting the win. That’s the most important thing.”
Knight knew his team needed him when it counted the most and stayed focused on the task at hand.
“You can’t get down on yourself,” he said. “You have to continue to play hard, keep everyone into it and keep up the enthusiasm.”
Knight and the rest of the freshman class struggled in the tournament opener, but the freshman guard said the team’s veterans made a statement.
“It just shows that the rest of the team can step up,” he said.
By Keith Taylor