UK Returns to Final Four with 82-70 Win Over Baylor
Kidd-Gilchrist scores 19 to lead Cats, named Most Outstanding Player of the region
ATLANTA (AP) - Kentucky could've cut the nets down at halftime.
Actually, the Wildcats probably would've been good skipping the ceremony altogether.
A South Regional title is fine, but what matters to this bunch of future NBA stars is breaking out the scissors in the Big Easy.
Kentucky advanced to the Final Four for the second year in a row with a
82-70 blitzing of Baylor, setting up a Bluegrass showdown with rival
Louisville in the national semifinals Saturday at New Orleans.
Kidd-Gilchrist scored 19 points, Anthony Davis added 18 points and 11
rebounds, and Terrence Jones dazzled in all the overlooked areas to
lead the Wildcats (36-2) on Sunday. For all the hoopla sure to surround
the next game in its basketball-crazed state, Kentucky won't consider
the season a success unless it wins two more games - culminating in a
"I'm not satisfied yet," Kidd-Gilchrist said.
group sure has the look of a champion, shaking off an early blow by the
Bears (30-8) - a very good team with a daring fashion sense that was
simply no match for coach John Calipari's latest group of Fab Freshmen.
Kentucky took control with an early 16-0 run and led by 20 at halftime.
team is better than I thought," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "This is
the best team we faced all year ... probably in a couple of years."
Two years ago, Baylor lost to eventual national champion Duke in another regional final.
"Duke was a good team," Drew said, "but Kentucky is better."
Wildcats beat Louisville 69-62 on New Year's Eve, but now they'll meet
with the highest stakes ever. Kidd-Gilchrist shrugged when someone
asked about playing the Cardinals.
"I'm just worried about us," he said. "That's it. I don't worry about anybody else."
in his third season at Kentucky, just keeps recruiting the best high
school players in the land, molds them into a top team, then sends most
of `em on to the NBA.
Then he starts the whole process over again.
are some opinions that will never change," Calipari said. "All I'm
trying to do is coach these young people. I'm trying to do the best job
for these kids and their families."
Two years ago, John Wall led
Kentucky to the regional final. Last season, Brandon Knight helped
guide the Wildcats to the Final Four. Now, with those guys in the NBA
and Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis stopping off for what could be their only
season in Lexington, Big Blue has a shot at what those last two teams
failed to do - bringing Kentucky its first national title since 1998.
for all the talk about Calipari's one-and-done tactics, he's getting
plenty of contributions from those who hung around beyond their
freshmen year. Take Jones, a sophomore forward who passed up the draft.
He scored just one point in the opening half, but his fingerprints were
all over Kentucky's dominating performance: nine rebounds, six assists,
three blocks and two steals and - most in the first 10 minutes.
was just trying to be aggressive early," Jones said. "That allowed me
to get in great position for rebounds and to lead the fast break."
there's Darius Miller, one of only two seniors on the roster. He gave
up his starting role to Kidd-Gilchrist in this one - Kentucky
essentially has six starters - but added four points, two assists and
two steals in the first-half blowout.
At one point,
Kidd-Gilchrist had as many points as Baylor's entire team: 17 apiece.
Kentucky led 42-22 at the break and Baylor never got any closer than 10
points the rest of the way.
"It's kind of hard to play us," Davis said. "We're very long and very athletic. It makes it tough on the other team."
The Wildcats left New Orleans earlier this month disappointed with a loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
That one's long forgotten.
A national championship has been the goal all along.
"It's a great feeling to be part of something special," Davis said.
Quincy Acy led Baylor with 22 points, and Pierre Jackson added 21. Not enough. Not nearly enough.
"They're a great team," Acy said. "They've got some good dudes down there."
Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III cheering on the Bears
from the stands, Acy tried to send a message early on that Baylor would
not be intimidated by the Wildcats.
Jones was in the clear and
going in for a fastbreak layup when the 235-pound Acy came up from
behind, took a whack at the ball but mainly just crashed into the
Kentucky player, sending him flying into the Baylor cheerleaders along
the baseline. Jones was OK, and the officials doled out a flagrant foul
on Acy after looking at the replay.
Jones made one of the free
throws, Kentucky missed a jumper and the Bears, seemingly inspired by
Acy's bravado, ripped off an 8-0 run that led Calipari to call a quick
timeout. He already had yanked Doron Lamb from the game for trying to
make the highlight reels rather than taking a layup. The sophomore
guard passed up a clear path to the basket, instead opting for a lob
pass to the trailing Davis.
The big man missed the dunk, hanging on the rim as Baylor grabbed the rebound and took off the other way for a basket.
Quincy Miller hit an uncontested 3-pointer from the top of the lane to
give Baylor a 10-5 lead, Calipari lashed into his young team.
"I told them we've got to step on the gas here," he said.
did they respond. Sixteen consecutive points, an NBA-like display of
defensive dominance and easy baskets that sent the Georgia Dome, and
the predominantly blue-clad crowd, into a frenzy.
indeed. Too bad RGIII couldn't suit up for the Bears, who couldn't wear
the neon-green home uniforms they had specially made for the
tournament. As the lower-seeded team, they switched to another special
uniform, this one black and camouflage with neon trim.
Turns out, blue was the dominant color.
displayed his all-around game, coming up with three steals and swatting
away a shot by 5-foot-10 Pierre Jackson like this was a game between
men and boys. Kentucky fed off his defense, running the court at every
opportunity for layup after layup. Kidd-Gilchrist had three of them,
along with a slam by Davis.
Miller hit a jumper and freshman
Kyle Wiltjer knocked down a 3-pointer, pumping his fist and smiling as
he trotted back down the court.
There were plenty of smiles from
the folks in blue, though Kentucky did get a scare early in the second
half when Davis went down with an injured left knee.
6-foot-10 freshman was driving to the basket when he banged knees with
Baylor's Perry Jones III, going down hard along the baseline. A hush
fell over the massive stadium as Davis, writhing in pain, grabbed at
his knee. Finally, he limped to the bench, but it was clear the injury
wasn't too serious when the trainers kept flexing the leg, then rubbed
it with an ointment to ease the pain.
After just a few minutes, Davis got up and headed to the scorer's table, checking back into the game.
The Kentucky fans broke into a huge cheer of relief.
There's still work to do in the Big Easy.
NCAA South Regional All-Tournament Team
Selected by an on-site committee of the United States Basketball Writers Association.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Doron Lamb, Kentucky
Quincy Acy, Baylor
Christian Watford, Indiana
Most Outstanding Player: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky