The last time Indiana and Kentucky met in the regular season was December 10, 2011. That also happens to be one of the most memorable games in the historic series.
Unranked Indiana was down 72-70 with 5.6 seconds to go in regulation against the No. 1 ranked Wildcats. With zero timeouts remaining, the Hoosiers pushed the ball up the floor quickly. Verdell Jones received the inbound pass and rushed the rock across the timeline with some help from a screen, then immediately drove hard to the left of the paint. Once he was stopped, he slung the ball behind him to a waiting Christian Watford, who had been the inbound passer and trailed behind the play the entire time, beyond the three-point line.
With a little more than a second to go, Watford rose up for the game-winning shot. Assembly Hall collectively stood and watched as time stood still while the ball sailed toward the rim.
“Watford for the win,” play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman said after the shot’s release, holding on in anticipation like everyone else.
The net embraced the ball wholeheartedly, and the late heroics from Christian Watford sent Bloomington into a frenzy as Indiana won, 73-72.
“YES! YES!” Shulman shouted while Dick Vitale, the color commentator, struggled to find words for the moment and Hoosiers fans partook in the one of the most famous court storms there has been.
The play and call are synonymous with one another, and Shulman has recognized how fortunate he was in how it all played out when talking about the greatest calls of his career.
“I got very, very lucky that not only did Christian Watford make the shot, but ‘Watford for the win,’ people love alliteration,” he explained to Kyle Koster of The Big Lead in February. “Had it been ‘Jones for the win,’ nobody would know. But God bless him, his name begins with a W so I’m eternally grateful. That one’s probably up there.”
It wasn’t just Dan Shulman who was thankful that it was Watford who secured the win. The player’s mother, Belinda Watford, was overcome with emotion when he son connected on his stroke.
“Looking at the clock, I started praying to God, ‘Just help him,'” she told Nicole Auerbach of USA Today in 2013. “When he made the shot, it was more in slow-motion for me. When he hit it, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I started crying.”
Two years later, Christian Watford was still hearing about the shot constantly, he said to Auerbach.
“There hasn’t been one day I’m not reminded of The Shot,” he said. “It gets annoying, but it’s one of the things you have to embrace and cherish. It doesn’t happen every day.”
In other interviews, he has made his appreciation for the moment known.
“I haven’t felt anything like that,” Christian Watford explained. “It’s probably the most memorable moment of my life, definitely of my career.”
The two teams have played twice since The Shot, both in the NCAA Tournament. Only one season after Christian Watford lifted the Hoosiers over the Wildcats, Kentucky got revenge in the 2012 Sweet 16, 102-90, in Atlanta. Indiana returned the favor in the most recent meeting, though, eliminating Kentucky from the 2016 Big Dance in the second round, 73-67, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kentucky leads the all-time series, which dates back to 1924, 32-25. The games have been located all over the place, with meetings being played in 10 different cities over time. Bloomington has hosted the most with 16, following by Louisville (13), Lexington (12) and Indianapolis (10). Nashville, South Bend, Atlanta, Des Moines, Knoxville and Dayton have each hosted one.
There are constantly rumors and questions of when the two teams will meet again. It has been almost 10 years since the programs scheduled one another, and there’s no telling how long it will take until it happens again. But until then, college basketball fans and Indiana fans alike will always have the Watshot in their memories.