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Kentucky fends off upset-minded Cleveland State

Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - After showing their youth for much of the game, the Kentucky Wildcats grew up in a hurry.

With Andrew Harrison and Willie Cauley-Stein keying a huge late run, the third-ranked Wildcats survived a scare from Cleveland State before pulling out a hard-earned 68-61 victory at Rupp Arena.

The Vikings appeared poised for the upset after owning a 54-44 lead with under 7 1/2 minutes to go, but Kentucky (5-1) put forth a 21-3 burst to turn the tables.

Harrison and Cauley-Stein each netted six points during the pivotal spurt, while James Young scored all nine of his points in the second half to help the Wildcats prevail.

"I think we showed a will to win, which is good," Wildcats head coach John Calipari said. "We made the plays we had to make down the stretch."

Julius Randall, one of five freshmen in Kentucky's starting lineup, paced the Wildcats with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Fellow rookie Harrison notched 12 points and five assists, while twin brother Aaron Harrison and Cauley-Stein each finished with 11.

Bryn Forbes poured in 22 points for Cleveland State (3-3), which led the majority of the second half, with Trey Lewis recording 15 and Sebastian Douglas 13 along with six rebounds.

"I felt bad for our kids because I thought they put themselves in a position to win a game," Vikings head coach Gary Waters remarked. "We kind of faltered at the end if I want to call it that. That's something that we need to get better at. You have to be disciplined in those closing moments and execute."

The Vikings gave Kentucky all it could handle and then some over the first 30- plus minutes of the contest, holding a double-digit margin after Forbes hit a pair of free throws with 7:41 left to play.

Cauley-Stein was fouled while throwing down an alley-oop dunk shortly afterward, however, igniting a 12-0 Wildcats' run and energizing the home crowd after he made good on the bonus attempt.

Young's jumper with 3:22 to go capped the surge and put Kentucky up by a 56-54 count, though Forbes knocked down a three off a screen on the ensuing possession to send the Vikings back in front.

After Cauley-Stein hit 1-of-2 from the line to knot the score, CSU's Anton Grady was called for charging and Andrew Harrison was hacked while sinking a floater in the lane with 2:08 on the clock. The heralded freshman promptly completed the 3-point play for a 60-57 UK lead.

The Vikings came up empty on their next trip down the court, and Aaron Harrison delivered the dagger with a corner trey that put the Wildcats up by six with 1:20 left.

"All of us stepped up," Andrew Harrison said. "James Young played great. Julius in the paint; nobody was getting a rebound at that point, nobody but him. So, it wasn't me at all. It was (the team) and I was just getting them the ball. They were just making me look good."

Kentucky overcame a miserable shooting first half in which it went a poor 7- of-27 from the floor. Cleveland State, on the other hand, hit on 5-of-6 field goal attempts out of the gate to build an early 11-4 lead that swelled to nine points less than eight minutes in, when Devon Long scored on a transition layup after Aaron Harrison bricked a 3-point try to put Kentucky in a 19-10 hole.

The Wildcats battled back to grab a 25-22 edge with 5:40 left in the period behind a 10-2 run, but were held scoreless over the final 3 1/2 minutes as the Vikings surged back in front.

Forbes was fouled from beyond the arc with Cleveland State up by one in the final minute of the half, then sank all three bonus shots to send the Vikings into the break with a 31-27 advantage.

The Vikings continued to have the upper hand following the intermission. Forbes drained a 3-pointer around 4 1/2 minutes into the second half to push Cleveland State's lead to 40-33, then made two from the line prior to a Lewis basket that created an 11-point differential with 14:17 remaining.

Game Notes

Kentucky shot just 35.8 percent for the game, including a 3-of-14 rate from the perimeter ... The victory was the Wildcats' 499th all-time at Rupp Arena ... The game was part of the Keightley Classic, a round-robin event featuring five teams (Kentucky, Cleveland State, Robert Morris, Texas-Arlington, Eastern Michigan). The Vikings finished 2-2 for the tournament, having lost at Eastern Michigan ... Randall posted his sixth straight double-double, one shy of Jim Andrews' school record to begin a season set in 1971-72 ... Lewis started in place of Charlie Lee, CSU's second-leading scorer who sat out with a knee injury ... The Vikings fell to 1-15 all-time against top-10 teams, with the lone win coming at No. 7 Vanderbilt on Nov. 13, 2011.

11/25 23:31:55 ET

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