(USA Today) ARLINGTON, Texas — Andrew Harrison had seen his twin brother catch and shoot so many big shots over the years with the same stone-faced expression. Just catch and shoot, over and over.
But when Andrew flipped a pass to Aaron with the seconds evaporating late Saturday night, in the biggest game they had ever played, and with Kentucky trailing Wisconsin by two points, Andrew saw something different. He saw a smile across Aaron's face.
The freshman who had made the go-ahead three-pointer with 39 seconds to play in the Sweet 16 against Louisville, who had made a 24-foot three-pointer with 2.3 seconds to play to beat Michigan in the Midwest Regional final, this time he was smiling.
"He really was actually smiling when he got the ball," Andrew said. "I don't understand that. That's crazy. I've never seen him like that before. He had a smirk like it was just a game with us in the backyard."
After he got the ball, Aaron paused and measured up from at least 25 feet from the basket, wanting to know how much time he had to deal with. Wisconsin's Josh Gasser, one of the nation's best defenders, stood right in front of him.
"I thought he should have driven to the basket," Andrew said. "But what do I know? … He's a superhero."
Aaron unleashed the long three-pointer, and the rest will live on YouTube and in the hearts of Big Blue Nation for decades to come. Gasser jumped toward Aaron, extending his right arm to contest.
Aaron initially thought the shot would bound off the back of the rim. Despite his recent heroics in the NCAA tournament, he had not attempted a three-point shot during the entire game against Wisconsin.
But this one rattled in with 5.7 seconds remaining. And after Traevon Jackson's errant jump shot missed at the buzzer, it was official: Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73 in a classic national semifinal at AT&T Stadium.
Another NCAA tournament game, another game-wining three-pointer by this freshman guard. He is now 3-for-3 on game-tying or go-ahead three-point shots in the final minute of the second half of the NCAA tournament, including making three in a row.
"You can never really get used to something like that," Aaron said in Kentucky's locker room.t
The arc of Kentucky's season has been like no other in history. The Wildcats began the season amid 40-0 chatter, anointed the preseason No. 1 team despite missing the NCAA tournament the year before. Their recruiting class was hailed as the best in a quarter century.
Then came turbulence. And coach John Calipari, the master of the one-and-done success formula, had to teach body language and energy and effort. The Wildcats were given a No. 8 seed in the so-called Region of Death, laden with three Final Four teams from 2013, including unbeaten Wichita State.
All Kentucky has done is topple every team in its path — each of the last four wins by no more than five points — thanks in large part to Aaron Harrison.
"He has a chip on his shoulder," Andrew said, "because he doesn't get the credit he deserves."
Both Harrison brothers were highly rated and coveted by colleges throughout their high school careers outside of Houston. But Andrew was the more highly rated player.
And now it is Aaron who is etching his name in NCAA tournament history as one of the most clutch outside shooters in recent history.
As Wisconsin's Sam Dekker said, "He has that clutch gene."
And Calipari knows it. That's why, in his final opportunity to instruct his team on the court Saturday night, he told Andrew that if he could not get a layup or get the ball to Dakari Johnson then to remember one thing: Look to your brother.
In the huddle, Calipari said, "We're going at Aaron, boys, anybody got a problem with that?" No one did. The ball went to Johnson, who tossed it to Andrew, who then found his brother.
"It was an NBA three contested, and he made it," Calipari said. "It's crazy that he does it."
And it was crazy that the player who breathed the biggest sigh of relief was Andrew, who felt that he would have been the goat had Kentucky lost the game.
"Aaron saved me," Andrew said. "The loss would have been on me."
Just minutes before Aaron's three-point shot, it was Andrew who jumped in the air after Jackson pump faked with 16.4 seconds remaining. It was Andrew who fouled Jackson, sending the Wisconsin guard to the free-throw line in a tie game.
Jackson missed the first free throw and made the next two. That was the first and only free-throw miss in the game by Wisconsin, which made 19 of 20.
It set the stage for Aaron's final shot. Aaron said he didn't even really know — nor care — how far he was away from the basket when he caught the ball on the wing. He just measured up for another ho-hum, game-winning NCAA tournament three-pointer.
"Anyone else would have gotten a little bit closer," Andrew joked about his brother.
Anyone else would not have smiled in such a pressurized moment. But Aaron could not help it.
"A little bit," Aaron said. "That's just the best feeling in the world to be able to take the last shot. The confidence your teammates have in you to take the last shot it's just a great feeling, so I was smiling."
On Monday night, Kentucky will try to be the first No. 8 seed to win the national title since Villanova in 1985. It's already been an unforgettable season in Lexington, where hype turned to frustration, which in March turned to renewed optimism. And in April it might turn into the program's second national title in three seasons.
And maybe the shooting hero of the last three games has one final flick of the wrist left in him late Monday night.
"I don't want to say I hope not," Aaron said, pausing. "But I'd rather win by four."