Louisville, KY – Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The young Wildcats are growing up at the right time.
Anything's possible now.
Julius Randle had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Kentucky defeated defending national champion and bitter Bluegrass State rival Louisville, 74-69, in a Midwest Regional semifinal from Indianapolis.
Eighth-seeded Kentucky (27-10), which starts five freshmen, will face second-seeded Michigan in the Regional Final on Sunday.
"Thank goodness we had enough time with all freshmen to get it right before things ended," head coach John Calipari said.
The Wildcats, who led for a duration of just 67 seconds, finally took their first lead since it was 2-0 when Alex Poythress split a pair of foul shots with 1:27 left to put them up 67-66.
Russ Smith made a jumper at the other end, but Aaron Harrison swished a wide- open left corner triple on Kentucky's next trip down the floor to give it a 70-68 edge with 40 ticks to play.
Wayne Blackshear drew a foul on Randle with 14 seconds remaining, but made just 1-of-2 to keep Kentucky in front. Randle then hit two foul shots to make it 72-69 and Smith's potentially game-tying 3-pointer from the left wing clanked off the front rim.
Harrison then sunk a pair of foul shots to seal the outcome.
"(I) Told them before the game, you'll get punched in the mouth and you're going to taste blood. You're going to fight or brace yourself for the next shot. They fought. They never stopped playing," UK head coach John Calipari said.
Kentucky, which also beat Louisville in Lexington earlier this season in December, dispatched the Cardinals in the 2012 Final Four en route to a national championship.
The Wildcats beat undefeated and top-seeded Wichita State in the third round.
Harrison scored 15 points, while twin brother Andrew tallied 14 points, seven assists and five boards. Dakari Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds in the triumph.
Kentucky played most of the game without paint protector Willie Cauley-Stein, who left early with a sprained left ankle.
"It's not a good ankle injury. Let me just put it that way," Calipari said.
Smith netted 23 points to lead the fourth-seeded Cardinals (31-6). Luke Hancock supplied 19 points and Montrezl Harrell provided 15 points and eight rebounds in defeat.
"I told them we probably beat ourselves a little bit down the stretch," Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino said.
Smith put in six quick points as Louisville raced out to an 18-5 start.
It was 31-23 in favor of the Cardinals following a Harrell layup late in the half, but Kentucky netted eight of the final 11 points of the stanza to pull within 34-31 heading into the break.
Louisville shot 50 percent (13-of-26) and held Kentucky to a 33.3 percent clip (10-of-30), but the Cards went just 6-of-15 from the foul line.
Neither team led by more than four until Smith converted a pair of layups during a mini 6-2 Louisville spurt, which was capped on a Harrell dunk for a 48-42 cushion with 12:30 to play.
Two Hancock free throws staked the Cardinals to a 66-59 margin with 4:33 left, but the Wildcats ripped off seven straight to tie it. Randle's layup preceded a Poythress three-point play to knot the contest at 66-66 with 2:12 on the clock.
Kentucky shot 56 percent (14-of-25) in the second half and 43.6 percent (24- of-55) from the game ... Kentucky is seeking its 16th trip to the Final Four ... Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino fell to 11-1 in Sweet 16 games.