‘Mamba in my roots’: Quade Green breaks down game-winner against Vanderbilt


Kentucky celebrates Quade Green’s game winning layup during the game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won in overtime 83-81 | Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Chase Campbell

UK point guard Quade Green embodied the dreams of every young competitive athlete against conference opponent Vanderbilt, hitting a game-winning layup with seconds left in overtime.

RECAP: UK’s guards lead the way in UK’s overtime victory over Vanderbilt

Before the victory, however, there was a mighty struggle to get there. Fueled by 26 points from guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Cats trailed by one with 5.8 seconds remaining in the second half. UK had to foul Jeff Roberson, the red-hot Commodore who had dropped 20 on the Cats before that point and was perfect from the free throw line (9-9) to that point.

“The Roberson kid was unbelievable tonight,” UK assistant coach Kenny Payne said. “He really hurt us. He outplayed P.J. (Washington) and Jarred (Vanderbilt) and Wenyen Gabriel.”

Roberson made his first free throw, and the UK faithful held their breath as Roberson’s second bonus free throw rimmed out. There was a scramble for the ball as time ran down, and all looked wrapped up for the Cats. Even if the home team had control of the ball, they were 65 feet from their basket and were shooting an unimpressive percentage to that point in the game.

Suddenly, Gilgeous-Alexander took control of the ball with two seconds remaining and was slammed into by junior Commodore forward Joe Toye, fouling the guard who was on fire the entire second half.

Gilgeous-Alexander knocked down his two free throws to tie the game and send Rupp Arena into a frenzy, as the crowd erupted as soon as the second free shot hit the net.

“That was my first time, like, actual last five seconds of the game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I just had to be confident, make two free throws, but yeah, that was my first time.”

Those free throws sent the game to overtime after the Cats had faced a 14-point deficit with 15:23 left in regulation, before the Cats staged their second double-digit comeback in a row.

Fast forward to the last seconds of overtime, and Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown makes a tying layup with 12 seconds remaining after the Commodores trailed for much of the overtime period.

The Cats inbounded the ball to Green, and the point guard who has faced a poked eye and a back strain that limited him earlier in the season raced down the court to earn a victory for his team. As he crossed half court, three defenders stood in front of him: Saben Lee, Riley LaChance and Brown.

Green stepped in between LaChance and Lee and blew past Brown, who was caught flat-footed at the free throw line, to give him space for his game-winning layup with five seconds remaining.

“I saw an open layup. I saw the big man was at the top of the key so he wasn’t guarding the row,” Green said.

As soon as Vanderbilt’s go-ahead three-point attempt missed, Washington shoved Green to the ground in joy and a dogpile ensued in Rupp Arena for the first time since Julius Randle tipped in a game winner against LSU in 2014.

“That was my first [dogpile], actually. I wasn’t surprised, it just shocked me. I just turned around and saw Jonny [David] running at me then everybody was on me, pushing me down to the ground,” Green said.

Green also said his game-winner ranks in the “Top 5” of shots over his lifetime.

“I’m shooting that shot always. I will always have that mindset. I like taking big shots and I had my Kobe’s on, so I was feeling like Mamba in my roots,” he said.