Knight time.

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Knight time.

Post  stuckinknoxville on Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:29 pm

Jimmer Fredette might have been the darling of the NCAA tournament prior to the Sweet 16, but when it was all on the line, no guard came through in the clutch like Kentucky's star freshman Brandon Knight.

But it has been a long road to Houston for the 19-year-old.

Early in the year, Knight found himself on the wrong end of a number of coach John Calipari's rants. He has to learn to play as part of a team, Cal echoed on more than a few occasions. Brandon is young and talented, but he has a lot to learn. If he's willing to work hard and listen and do the things it takes to lead this team, then we're going to get along fine. If not, that's something different.

Knight took it all in stride, even when his coach called him out for poor shooting performances as late as the SEC tournament.

I know there are things I have to do for this team, the remarkably poised 6-foot-3 point guard said. Even when my shots are not falling, I have to keep playing and do what it takes to help the team.

But the most important shots, the shots at the crucial moments with the game on the line, have, indeed, been falling.

With the game tied and seconds ticking away against Princeton in the second round of the NCAA tournament, it was Knight who got the call. A head fake, a quick cut to his right and a drive to the basket -- three . . . two . . . one -- Cool Hand Knight laid in the game winner right before the horn.

In Newark, facing No. 1 Ohio State with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line, the Wildcats were tied again with time running out. Knight, showing no more emotion than he does during pregame shootaround, dribbled to his left and then his right, pulling up at the right edge of the foul line for a 15-footer as the clocked ticked down from three seconds to two.

The shot was good all the way.

I just thank God for being able to make shots like that, Knight said. When it comes to crunch time, a couple seconds left and the game on the line, I focus in and make sure I am making the right decisions."

He isn't Kentucky's best shooter in the tournament. In fact, in terms of percentages, he's its worst, making only 35.7 percent of his shots from the floor and 34.6 percent of his 3-pointers.

But when the game is on the line, there is no doubt where the Wildcats are going.

I feel comfortable putting it in his hands because I know of his work ethic, Calipari said. (Brandon) has no fear. If you really want to be that guy, you have to have no fear. If I miss the shot, I miss it. Life will not end.

Like most young people, Knight has been making clutch shots in his mind for years. I think every kid does that when they're growing up, outside shooting around," Knight said. "Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one, and shoot it. Try to make it. And then when you make it, go inside.

He's done it twice so far on the biggest stage of his life. And if the clock is winding down against UConn in Saturday's Final Four matchup, there is no doubt who will be trying to get an open look.

If we are in another game and it's late, Calipari said, that coach will know we're playing through Brandon.


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