The Kentucky Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the second straight year and the 15th time in school history with an 82-70 win over the Baylor Bears on Sunday. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, named the South Regional's Most Valuable Player, led UK with 19 points while Anthony Davis scored 18 points, claimed 11 rebounds, and blocked 6 shots.
After falling behind 10-5 at the 16:20 mark of the first half, the Cats went on a 16-0 run over the next five minutes that essentially sealed the game as the Bears would never get the lead under double digits the rest of the game. UK outscored Baylor 37-12 over the final 16 minutes of the first half to take a 42-22 lead at the break.
Baylor made a mini-run in the second half after Anthony Davis collided knees with Baylor's Perry Jones III and left the game grimacing in obvious pain and the largely partisan UK crowd at the Georgia Dome in an anxious, collective silence. While Davis would return and play the majority of the second half, Baylor's defensive pressure and Davis being hampered coupled with less-than-stellar free throw shooting allowed the Bears to cut the lead to as little as 11 with 1:12 to play, but that was as close as they would get.
Doron Lamb also had 14 points while Terrence Jones pitched in 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Darius Miller and Marquis Teague each had 8 points and 3 assists as the Wildcats ran their overall record to 36-2 overall which ties the 1947-48 Wildcats for most ever and, more importantly, moved the Cats to within two wins of winning their eighth national championship.
On Friday, the Wildcats avenged their only regular season loss with an exciting 102-90 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. The game was a sprint by both teams from the opening tip and the offensive fireworks started. Jones scored the first five points for the Wildcats and UK raced out to a 29-20 advantage midway through the first half, but Davis and Indiana's Cody Zellers were hampered by foul trouble which opened up the middle for both teams. The Hoosiers battled back to take a 43-39 lead with 3:33 to play in the half but Kentucky ended the half on an 11-4 run to claim a 50-47 lead.
Indiana scored the first basket of the second half to cut the lead to 1, but UK went on a 9-2 run over the next three minutes to take a 59-51 lead and the Hoosiers never got closer than 5 the rest of the game.
Kidd-Gilchrist had one of his best games as a Wildcat with 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead five players in double figures. Doron Lamb had 21 points, Miller had 19, Marquis Teague had 14 points and 7 assists, and Terrence Jones had 12 points. Davis had 9 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks while playing just 25 minutes due to foul trouble.
While the Cats struggled at times to stop the Hoosiers, Kentucky had its most prolific offensive production since the first game of the year when they scored 108 points against Marist. UK shot just 48% from the field, but made an NCAA tournament record 35-of-37 free throws.
The win over Baylor sets up an all-Kentucky national semifinal matchup as the Wildcats will face arch-rival Louisville on Saturday at the Superdome in New Orleans. While UK beat the Cardinals 69-62 in December, the game was not an easy one and UK will have it's hands full with a much-improved Louisville team in order to advance to the national championship game.
A few notes...
- UK's four game average scoring was 88 points per game, 11 points over their season average of 77 PPG. Their average margin of victory was 13.5 PPG.
- This is Kentucky's 15th appearance in the Final Four, tied with Duke for third place all time behind North Carolina and UCLA. The other participants also have a rich history in the Final Four: Kansas (14 appearances), Ohio State (11), and Louisville (9).
- Between them, the four schools in the Final Four have 13 national titles with UK leading the pack with 7. Kansas has 3, Louisville has 2, and Ohio State has 1.
- Saturday's matchup will be only the fourth time in Final Four history that two schools from the same state have played each other.
We will have more on the colossal game to come as the week progresses. Until then, Go Cats!go back