The Kentucky Wildcats, the NCAA Tournament's favorite to take home the championship, held their intrastate rival, the Louisville Cardinals, in check, largely thanks to freshman Anthony Davis, who was just named the AP National Player of the Year, led the country in blocks and scored 18 points with 14 rebounds and five blocks. Though the Cardinals put up a good fight, the Wildcats were just too much, winning 69-61.
Kentucky was up 13 points early in the second half, but Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng and littler men Wayne Blackshear, Russ Smith and point guard Peyton Siva led the Cardinals to a big run, climbing back to within two points with 7:34 left in the game. Siva didn't score in the first half, but had seven quick points midway through the second to bring the Cardinals close. Overall, terrific defense and efficient offense brought them back in it.
Then the Wildcats' upperclassmen took over. Senior Darius Miller, the key player for the 'Cats off the bench, combined with Terrence Jones to extend the 'Cats' lead to seven point immediately. Though Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, despite a brief quad injury, and Miller tried to pull away, the Cardinals wouldn't give in.
It didn't matter. The Wildcats were too good, they made too many free throws and didn't let the Cardinals make the really important shots, and John Calipari got perhaps the most important win of his NCAA coaching career, beating Rick Pitino despite one of Pitino's better coaching jobs in his career.
Davis was really the star, but Miller was terrific in the second half and finished with 13 points. Jones finished with six points and seven rebounds, several of which were huge, late in the game. Louisville shot just 34.8 percent as a team, a mark forced entirely by Kentucky's defense. Five Cardinals — Siva, Smith, Blackshear, Chris Smith and Chane Behanan — scored eight points or more, but no one scored more than 11. Ultimately, no Cardinal was able to really take over, and that was the difference between coming within two points and taking the lead and winning the game.
Kentucky will play the winner of Ohio State and Kansas in Monday night's championship game.
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