Kris Wilkes is from Indiana. He came to UCLA, in part. because his idol Reggie Miller was a Bruin great. Reggie was his favorite player growing up. He wears #13 as a reverse of Reggie Miller’s #31. Last night, he did what Reggie did for the UCLA Bruins: Beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in dramatic fashion. But, before we get to Wilkes’ feat, let’s revisit what Reggie Miller did, courtesy of the Daily Bruin:
Miller carved out a career in which clutch shots were commonplace. One of his most memorable performances came on Jan. 24, 1987 against Notre Dame. With just 10 seconds to play and the Bruins down a point, Miller sent a 28-foot, three-point dagger to the Fighting Irish that would win the game for the Bruins. The game reignited a flame of rivalry between Notre Dame and UCLA dating back to when John Wooden was on the sidelines squaring up against Digger Phelps.
Last night, Wilkes may have also reignited the rivalry when he did it this way. The final sequence starts at the 42-second mark on the video.
Ben Bolch of the LA Times describes the shot like this:
Kris Wilkes already was hobbled with calf cramps when he rose for the three-point shot that could ease his pain.
The ball had just gone through the net when Wilkes limped into the backcourt and slid to the court, the UCLA small forward grimacing in anguish as teammate Jaylen Hands ran to mob him in celebration.
The near-capacity crowd roared in appreciation, Wilkes’ shot with nine-tenths of a second remaining Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion completing a comeback from a late five-point deficit and lifting the Bruins to an improbable 65-62 victory over Notre Dame.
There was even more drama for the shot as Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News details:
Wilkes, suffering from cramps in both legs, rolled on the floor as his teammates celebrated. Two teammates helped him off the court for the final possession. When Notre Dame’s final heave fell short, Wilkes limped through the handshake line.
Beyond the pain and the Reggie Miller-like Notre Dame dagger, Wilkes also pulled a Babe Ruth-like calling of his shot.
I told the guys before I shot it—or at least Shareef [O’Neal]. I told him I was going to hit the next shot and I hit it. I took my time. It was just a regular shot and I’m glad I hit it.
Okay, maybe not quite Ruthian, but it was a dramatic win. The game was dramatic but also ugly. Nyguen details the ugliness:
The guard’s heroic late effort helped UCLA overcome its worst shooting night of the season and hold off a Notre Dame comeback after the Bruins (7-2) blew a double-digit lead in the second half....
By wilting in the second half, UCLA squandered its best defensive half of the season. The Bruins held Notre Dame (6-3) scoreless for the final 7:40 before halftime. Despite shooting just 32.4 percent from the field in the first half, its second-worst shooting half of the season, UCLA held a double-digit halftime lead and went up by 14 after the first possession of the second half.
After the break, UCLA allowed the Irish to shoot 51.6 percent from the floor. The Bruins shot a season-low 34.3 percent for the game.
While Wilkes was the biggest hero with a Hollywood ending, Jaylen Hands had another double-digit assist game as the Daily Bruin’s Ryan Smith summarizes:
Jaylen Hands also stepped up for the Bruins on Saturday night after being held scoreless in the first half. The sophomore guard scored all 12 of his points in the second half – including a stretch in which he scored nine straight for the Bruins – and dished out 11 assists on his way to a double-double.
Jalen Hill blocked a layup by Prentiss Hubb, Prince Ali grabbed the defensive rebound and fed Wilkes near the right top of the key for the game-winner in the first meeting between the longtime rivals since 2009.
The news stories rightly focus on Wilkes and his game-winning shot. It was a great moment for him. We’ll write more on the actual game, which was not a great game, but, for now, it’s like Steve Alford said:
Well that’s why we wanted the rivalry back – games like that.... It’s a huge shot. Players like that live for that.
As a student, I remember Reggie’s three like it was yesterday. Today’s students will likely remember the one-legged Wilkes’ three as well.
Oh, one more thing: Digger is still a wimp and it was nice to see that sign in the student section last night.