UK defeats KU 67-59 to win eighth national championship
April 4, 2012
What may have sounded like a cheer of triumph thundering in the Superdome after UK's 67-59 win was really just a collective sigh of relief.
The Big Blue Nation has known this team was championship-capable for months now. That sort of knowledge comes not from the many W's they strung together, but the way they were earned: a high octane offense, consistent free throw shooting, and a smothering, spirit-crushing defense led by the nation's best blocker.
That kind of play has the potential to hang banners at Rupp, no doubt. But after seeing Kentucky power down in the SEC title game against Vanderbilt, and understanding the incomparable capacity Kansas has shown this season for the big comeback, this year's title game was as tense as possible when you consider Kentucky's crop of talent.
Sure, they were in command all game long. Sure, the first half was a twenty minute highlight reel. But in the second half, where Kansas has repeatedly put its stamina and heart to good use throughout the tournament and the season, Calipari says he pulled the reins back on the Cats and tried to get them to calm down and reset. That meant a much more relaxed, methodical play, where the Cats were often forced to take it back to half court to reassess the situation.
At one point, Kansas closed to within five, a slim enough lead to evoke some worry. Down the stretch, though, it was clutch free throw shooting and more of the same in defense that won Kentucky's eighth national championship.
So who can we look to and say led the Cats Monday night? Doron Lamb led all Cats in scoring with 22 points, including two 3-pointers within 33 seconds at a time when Kansas felt the momentum might be headed their way.
But then there's Anthony Davis, who only put up 6 points--including just one field goal--yet was named outstanding player, thanks to sixteen rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals. He shot 1 for 10, and decided early on that he would be playing the role of support to get the ball to his scoring teammates.
And it was that consummate philosophy--teamwork and fundamentals--that brought UK fans their long-awaited number 8.
While we may be losing several of these talents to the NBA, that was always in the cards. Coach Cal says he'll be going recruiting again on Friday.
UK vaults over U of L and into the national championship game
April 2, 2012
For all the aura and spectacle of a UK and U of L showdown in the Final Four, it seems like it happened months ago, because the fans and the Cats themselves are instead looking forward to tonight's championship game.
In a way, it did happen months ago--the December game produced a nearly identical result. It was 69-62 on New Year's Eve, 69-61 yesterday. The stage, though, and the stakes, were wildly different.
The Cats seemed steady and in control all game long. When U of L rallied and the score was tied 49 all with less than 10 minutes to play, UK ratcheted their play up and tore off an 11-2 run.
It's a style of play they've maintained all season long: controlling the game while leaving enough gas in the tank to put the hammer down if they really need to.
And they'll need to tonight. UK and Kansas are, historically, the country's two best teams. And this will be the first meeting of UK and KU in a national championship game. KU's Thomas Robinson is the closest competition Anthony Davis has for player of the year.
Hopefully, Davis can pull off another game like the leading performance he put together yesterday against Louisville: 18 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal. The Cats will have to stay out of foul trouble, capitalize on their free throws, maintain their strong defense, and sink their field goals.
They've already beaten Kansas once this season, 75-65 at Madison Square Garden. Can they do it again, and in the process, deliver UK's long-awaited eighth national title? We'll find out soon. Pre-game starts around 7:00 p.m. on Q95 FM, and tipoff is slated for 9:23.
UK outguns Baylor 82-70, marches on to second straight Final Four
March 26, 2012
Are there any easy games in the NCAA tournament? Of course not. But a team as good as this year's Wildcats can make it look easy.
Their 82-70 shutout of the Baylor Bears didn't look so inevitable in the opening minutes. A couple poor decisions and missed opportunities gave Baylor a 10-5 lead, when Calipari called a time out and hit the reset button with his Cats. The 16-0 run that followed wrested control of the game squarely into their hands.
They maintained a steady pace and a rock-solid defense, leading 42-22 at halftime. Kidd-Gilchrist again led UK's effort with 19 points, and Anthony Davis tipped in 18, back on form after a lacking performance against Indiana. Terrence Jones may not have tallied as many points, but his presence on court netted nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals. It's that kind of well-rounded, fundamental gameplay that Calipari instills in his young team, and it's that kind of gameplay that leads to championships.
The only major scare of the game was a second-half injury, when Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III of Baylor collided, landing Davis on the hardwood grabbing at his knee. After a few tense minutes, trainers worked it out and not long after, Davis headed back into play with a roar of applause behind him.
The Cats will now face their long-standing in-state rival, Louisville. And while they've defeated U of L before (69-62 on New Year's Eve), that was certainly not on a stage as big as the Final Four. They'll face off in New Orleans, site of UK's loss in the SEC tournament. That may have been only a couple weeks ago, but it's another lifetime entirely in the minds of the Cats, because the winner of the next game will go on to face the winner of an Ohio State/Kansas game for the national title.
Cats get another swipe at Indiana, win 102-90
March 24, 2012
They're both juggernauts in the annals of college basketball. They're rivals. And after Christian Watford's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Kentucky its first defeat of the season, they were understandably determined to change the outcome when they faced the Hoosiers again. Moving onto the Elite 8 may have been their primary goal, but besting Indiana in a tournament rematch must have been on their minds.
And what a rematch it was. It was an up-and-down, back-and-forth brawl that saw both teams scrambling across the court. In the end, Kentucky had them covered, and Indiana fell 102-90.
The performance was headed up by Kidd-Gilchrist at 24 points, Lamb's 21, and efforts of 19, 14, and 12 from Miller, Teague, and Jones. Anthony Davis, who picked up two fouls very early, spent a lot of time on the bench, and only racked up 9. Without Davis, Indiana's offense was less afraid of getting blocked, and the Hoosiers began railing on the inside to keep the game close. Watford led all players with 27 points.
But the Cats would not be denied. They drew numerous fouls and capitalized fantastically, shooting 35/37 at the free throw line, including Kidd-Gilchrist knocking in 10/10. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.
UK led 50-47 at the half, and kept the pace up in the second, ending 102-90 and heading off to their second straight Final Four. They'll face Baylor on Sunday.
Win against Iowa State takes Cats to Sweet 16
March 19, 2012
Led by an electric performance by freshman Marquis Teague, the Cats put all the pieces together and methodically fought their way over Iowa State and into the Sweet 16.
Coach Cal and Teague both realized the Iowa State defense was leaving him open--a vulnerability that allowed Teague to rack up a career-high 24 points. He also tallied seven assists.
Miller, Lamb, and Davis put 19, 16, and 15 on the board, respectively, as an unstoppable second-half surge took the game from tied at 42 to a decisive 87-71 victory.
Next on the calendar is a Friday rematch against Indiana, the first of only two teams able to claim they've bested Kentucky this season. You can bet that buzzer-beating 3-pointer has weighed heavily on their minds these past few months.
And though they're deliberately avoiding the word "revenge," they're very eager to get into the rematch and demonstrate how they've learned and grown as a team in all that time.
Coverage starts at 8 p.m. Friday on Q95 FM, and tipoff is set for 9:45.
UK edges Louisville 69-62
January 2, 2012
In a crucial faceoff with bitter rival Louisville, the Wildcats did not disappoint. The 69-62 win wraps up a five-game run of home appearances for the Cats and extended their streak of wins at home to 44, the nation's highest.
Both teams brought the heat: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist clocked in with his best performance of the year, tallying 24 points and 19 rebounds. Louisville's Russ Smith racked up a career-high 30 points.
Louisville only saw the lead after they sunk the first basket of the game, but the win was by no means easy. The Cardinals kept the pressure up until the final buzzer, never trailing very far and going so far as to tie the game up early in the second half.
No. 3 Kentucky and no. 4 Louisville have never before faced each other with such high rankings. After 40 minutes and 52 fouls, Kentucky is now 13-1 headed into the new year.
Cats beat Lamar 86-64
December 29, 2011
With a match against rival Louisville looming just days away, Kentucky (12-1) rolled over Lamar 86-64.
The game marked the return of Terrence Jones, who injured his left pinky in the game against Indiana two weeks ago. He added 9 points, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the Cats with 18.
No. 3 Kentucky will take on No. 4 Louisville on New Year's Eve.
Wiltjer shines in 87-63 win over Loyola
December 23, 2011
In their first ever meeting with Maryland's Loyola Greyhounds, the Cats knocked down yet another team to extend their 41-0 record at Rupp Arena under Coach John Calipari.
Kyle Wiltjer said he wanted to make the most of his time on the hardwood with Terrence Jones still sidelined by an injury to his shooting hand in the Chattanooga game last Saturday. And that he did, scoring a career-high and game-high 24 points to lead the Cats to an eventual 87-63 win.
But it was far from a blowout. Loyola came out swinging, and though UK led from a 4-2 lead to the end of the game, the Greyhounds kept the first half closely contested. The Cats managed to claw out a 33-23 lead, when Loyola came back with 8 unanswered points to cut the lead to 2.
The 45-39 lead at halftime got cut to 45-41 when Erik Etherly sunk the first basket of the second half for Loyola. He led all Greyhounds with 14 points, followed by Dylon Cormier and Justin Drummond at 13 and 10, respectively.
It was then that UK shifted gears and stomped on the gas pedal, running 22-4 and keeping Loyola without a point for over five minutes with a stifling defense. On top of Wiltjer's 24 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 15 with four assists and Darius Miller contributed another 13. Anthony Davis racked up 15 of his own along with 11 rebounds and three blocks, going double-double for the fifth time and totaling 52 blocks on the year.
Kentucky plays Lamar on the 28th, with coverage on Q95 FM starting at 7:00 p.m. After that, they end their run of home games with a match against rival Louisville on New Year's Eve.