Wall nets 19, including last-second game-winner, in Kentucky debut

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky coach John Calipari looked up at the clock after Miami of Ohio tied the Wildcats (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) with six seconds left and wondered if he should call timeout.

John Wall didn't give him a chance.

The heralded Kentucky freshman quickly grabbed the inbounds pass, raced by his coach in a blur and pulled up from 15 feet.

Before Calipari could collect his thoughts, Wall's jumper was through the net to give the Wildcats a 72-70 win Monday night and Kentucky's newest superstar was running down the floor pounding his chest in joy.

"John Wall catching it and going, I loved it," Calipari said.

How could he not?

Wall finished with 19 points and five rebounds in his highly anticipated debut as the Wildcats (2-0) escaped the RedHawks (0-2).

Considered the top high school player in the country when he signed with the Wildcats last spring, Wall was forced to sit out Kentucky's season-opening win over Morehead State last week as part of an NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits from his AAU coach.

He proved to be worth the wait. Wall's heroics prevented Miami from joining Gardner-Webb and Virginia Military Institute as November giant killers at Rupp Arena.

Urged by Calipari to "go make a play," Wall responded with the kind of heroics expected when he signed with the Wildcats last spring.

"I was kind of nervous," Wall admitted.

He didn't look it. Wall zoomed down the left side of the floor and -- seeing four RedHawks packing the lane -- opted for the jumper he'd been working on with assistant coach Rod Strickland.

"When it hit the bottom of the net, it was a relief, a great feeling," Wall said.

One that replaced the anxiety that permeated the arena after the RedHawks took an 18-point lead in the first half. The only person who didn't seem to panic was Calipari, who said he wanted his talented but inexperienced team to be tested early in the year.

"I wanted to see what we were made of," Calipari said. "In the huddle, they were saying 'We are not going to lose this.' Hey, this was kind of fun."

It didn't exactly seem like it after Miami's Kenny Hayes hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 70. Yet Wall's heroics spoiled Miami's bid for an upset, not that it seemed to bother coach Charlie Coles.

"All I'm hearing is they've got four [NBA] draft choices and you're asking me how it got away from you?" Coles said. "We came up with a brilliant effort."

One that wasn't quite enough to pull off another early season stunner at Rupp.

Wall got plenty off help in the second half as Kentucky used its size to overcome shoddy ballhandling and questionable shot selection.

Patrick Patterson had 17 points and 10 rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins had 10 points and 10 boards for Kentucky, which outrebounded Miami 37-25 and outscored the RedHawks 32-12 in the paint.

Kentucky needed every last one of them.

Nick Winbush led Miami with 26 points and the RedHawks nearly pulled off the upset thanks to making 15 of 26 3-pointers.

"I've told people, these guys know how to shoot," Coles said. "This would have been by best win."

Wall wasn't perfect -- he turned it over five times -- but he looked at ease with the ball in his hands and hardly bothered with the hype surrounding his arrival.

He didn't waste any time getting comfortable, he drilled his first shot, a 3-pointer from the top of the key, to give Kentucky an early 8-5 lead.

The RedHawks, however, were hardly in awe.

Miami packed in its zone to cut off Wall and backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe from getting to the lane and didn't hesitate to lay a body on Wall's slender 6-foot-4 frame. He was bumped nearly every time he got into traffic and received a rude welcome to college basketball while running on the fast break midway through the first half.

Wall running down the wing when Bledsoe attempted to hit him with an alley-oop. Hayes, however, jumped up to contest it, deflecting the pass away and sending Wall tumbling to the floor along the baseline in the process.

Wall laid on the floor for several moments before gingerly walking off the court. He returned after getting a once-over from the training staff and a little talking-to from Calipari.

"Coach sat me down and told me 'You can't do it all yourself,'" Wall said. "When I went back in, I settled down and just tried to make plays."