By LARRY VAUGHT
Thanks to freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky pulled out an overtime win over Vanderbilt Tuesday.
He had 30 points, three assists, one blocked shot, one steal and one rebound in 38 minutes. Of UK’s final 48 points, he either scored or assisted on 28 of them.
“It was really coach and my teammates calling the play and putting the ball in my hand, having great spacing and being ready to shoot and keeping the defense honest allowed that to happen,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
“I just know if there’s someone in front of me I can get around him anytime I want to. As long as the spacing is good, which my teammates did a great job of tonight, I can get in the lane and make plays.”
He had 22 points, six assists and four rebounds in a win earlier at Vanderbilt. So what makes him so good against Vandy?
“I, personally, can’t even tell you. I don’t know, I guess it’s just my teammates and Coach putting the ball in my hands. Maybe it’s them realizing something, but I’m just aggressive and it seems to be working against Vandy,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
His two biggest points came with :02 left in regulation when he made two free throws to tie the game force overtime. He was fouled about 75 feet from the basket on a loose ball scramble.
“I always focus on my free throws and I envisioned just like I’m shooting them in practice, like nothing’s on the line, just shooting my free throws, trying to make them and I was able to make two and put the game in overtime,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
He had never been in that situation before at any level.
“I just had to be confident and make two free throws, but yeah, it was my first time,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. ” I try to remain calm, and if anything slow it down a little bit more rather than rush into the shot and just shoot my shot and make it.”
He knew on the rebound after Vanderbilt missed a free throw that he had to get the ball after Kevin Knox tipped it and then Jarred Vanderbilt threw the ball back into play.
“It went over PJ (Washington’s) hands and I knew I had to grab this, try to make a play after something happened. Me and the guy went up for it and the guy fouled me, and I had to go to the free-throw line and make two,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
And he did exactly that to give UK one of its most improbable wins.