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Ashley Scoby: Harrison twins have provided the driving force behind Wildcats' win streak

As No. 1 Kentucky's winning streak has grown, the team has gotten steady and sometimes spectacular play from twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison (Jamie Vaught Photo)

As No. 1 Kentucky’s winning streak has grown, the team has gotten steady and sometimes spectacular play from twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison (Jamie Vaught Photo)


As the Harrison twins go, so goes Kentucky basketball.

The Wildcats will attempt to make history Saturday when they take on Florida trying to close out the regular season undefeated at 31-0. And one of the most important cogs in this well-oiled machine is just starting to hit its (their) stride.

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Both Andrew and Aaron have received their fair share of criticism – they both have talked about the “stupid” stuff they’ve seen on social media in the past two years.

Yet when they both chose to come back to Lexington instead of skipping out for the NBA, the reaction from fans was one of instant adulation and happiness.

With the way the twins – especially Andrew – are playing right now, it’s no wonder. In the game that Kentucky was probably closest to losing all year, against Georgia, the brothers combined for 28 points and seven rebounds.

In one particularly significant sequence, as the Wildcats were fighting from behind, Willie Cauley-Stein came down with a steal in the post and dumped it down to Andrew, who shuttled a Tom Brady-like bomb to his brother on the fast-break. Aaron finished at the rim through contact and got the foul call to boot.

Plays like that are the reason why Kentucky probably wouldn’t even be close to undefeated if it didn’t still have the Harrison twins’ services.

The reason why the twins came in with such big expectations is partially because they were so, well, big. The 6-foot-6 guards brought a certain size to their positions, and with that size came a heap of expectations.

The funny thing is this: The Harrisons are just starting to figure out how to use their 6-foot-6 frames in the most effective ways possible.

Head coach John Calipari has talked about it at seemingly every post-game press conference this season: “Be aggressive,” he tells Andrew and Aaron, over and over again. They finally are starting to do so.

There are still times when one of the twins will slash through the paint and launch himself into a defender, trying to get a foul call as a bail-out. But most of what the twins do in the paint now is carefully orchestrated, and yes, some of those plays involve trying to get a foul call.

Call it the James Harden approach to basketball (who, coincidentally, is a leading MVP candidate in the NBA this year).

It’s working. Of Andrew’s 18 points against Arkansas last week, eight were from the free throw line (he didn’t miss a foul shot). And against Georgia, Aaron scored 16 points (5-of-7 from the free throw line); and he only made one three-pointer. Even when they’re not getting fouled, the Harrison twins are setting everything else up: They’re both capable of finishing through contact for a layup. But they also can drive and draw defenders, then dump off to one of the big guys or kick out to someone like Devin Booker.

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Even when the Harrisons aren’t scoring, the threat of them doing so is putting more pressure on the defense: “Do we collapse on this twin and try to stop him? Do we fly back out to the shooter that Andrew’s about to kick it out to? Do we stay with our big man so we don’t get embarrassed with a dunk?”

It’s like having that solid run game to set up the 60-yard flea-flicker in football: Balance is key, and the Harrisons are providing that.

Calipari has said before that last year’s team would not have made it to the championship game without Andrew’s play. And we all know they wouldn’t have made it that far without Aaron’s three game-winning shots in a row. That yin and yang of steady and flashy that the Harrisons bring will be just as important this year, too.

However far the Wildcats can take this undefeated season will depend on the team’s overall depth, yes. But right now, the Harrisons are making everything tick. As they go, so goes the streak.

Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky and a KyForward sports writer. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com andkysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow. She will begin a summer internship with Sports Illustrated magazine in New York this June.

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