Kansas’ large contingent of fans gleefully chanted “Bobby, Bobby” as Jayhawk sophomore guard Bobby Pettiford left the Atlantis Resort’s Imperial Ballroom after beating the overtime buzzer and hitting the game-winning shot in KU’s thrilling 69-68 overtime victory over Wisconsin on Thursday.
“I mean that was crazy, honestly,” said Pettiford, KU’s 6-foot-1 backup point guard, who after charging hard from 10 feet beyond the three-point line raced in to grab the rebound of a Zach Clemence three-point miss and flip it off the backboard through the goal with 0.2 to play. The shot pushed Kansas through to the finals at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.
“I was smiling, laughing with my teammates and shaking the fans’ hands,” Pettiford added. “A big thanks to them.”
Pettiford began his sprint toward the basket as Clemence released a deep three with four seconds left, with KU needing a bucket to win. The ball hit the right side of the rim and kicked into the paint. Jalen Wilson (he was sensational with 29 points and 14 rebounds) tipped the ball to Pettiford, who retrieved it in the air at 1.5 seconds and, in one motion, threw it off the backboard and through the goal.
“I saw somebody pass it to Zach. I saw Zach kind of hesitate. Once he shot it, … I normally don’t crash, but that’s one time I need to crash,” Pettiford said. “I ran full speed. The ball fell in my hands. I just flicked something up and it went in.”
Pettiford — he took one shot in 20 minutes — noted he “had kind of a good angle. It was kind of a little bit of luck and skill at the same time. I was hoping it would go in.”
He said the shot was the biggest in his hoops career.
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“None that compares to this, no sir,” he said in the interview room after the game.
The bucket ended a crazy game in which KU squandered a 15-point lead with 15 minutes left and eight point lead with 3:30 to play. The Jayhawks sent the game to overtime thanks to a three by Kevin McCullar with 11 seconds remaining in regulation.
KU coach Bill Self — his team moves into Friday’s 6:30 p.m. Central matchup against either Tennessee or USC — was amazed at Pettiford’s huge play that saved the day.
“That today was an athletic play,” Self said. “I don’t know if you guys (media) have seen it yet. ‘J-Wil’ keeps the ball alive. Bobby catches it in midair, somehow gathers and shoots it from the other side of the rim with the right English (on it).
“It was a terrific play. I mean if he thinks about that he doesn’t make it,” Self added. “That was natural (athletic ability). Fortunately he got it up with 0.2 left.”
Self added, smiling: “I don’t know if he can make it again in 10 attempts, but it was good he made the one he did.”
A bucket by Tyler Wahl with 16.3 seconds left on a play in which Wilson tried to take a charge (and was not called for a flop) gave Wisconsin a 68-67 lead.
“Then obviously Bobby making that play. There’s been better played games, but I don’t know if there’s been a more exciting finish this year in college basketball,” Self added. “That was great.”
Self was pleased with Wilson’s production (29 points, 14 rebounds) but not his defense on the bucket by Wahl that could have won it for Wisconsin. Wahl finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Wisconsin guard Connor Essegian added 17 points.
“He kicked our butt,” Self said of Wahl “I’ve got a pet peeve. You never, ever, ever, ever fall down (on defense) at game point, ever. We fell down at game point. J-Will said the floor was slick and he slipped. That sounds to me like a little bit of an excuse. (But) we did have slipping out there today.
“Juan (Dajuan Harris: seven assists, four turnovers) who is usually money in the bank, he made a bonehead play, tried to throw to Jalen when it was not the play (at 0:26 when KU had one point lead),” Self added of a pivotal turnover. ”We didn’t execute out of timeout, didn’t do many things right. To have an eight-point lead with 3 1/2 minutes left and them going on an 11-0 run, that was very poor. We were fortunate.”