The Kentucky Wildcats will play for their 8th national championship on Monday night after defeating the Louisville Cardinals tonight 69-61 in the Louisiana Superdome. Anthony Davis led all scorers with 18 points to go along with 14 rebounds and 5 blocks but perhaps the biggest player of the game was senior Darius Miller who scored 13 points, all seemingly coming when the Cats were in desperate need of a basket.
Doron Lamb had 10 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 9 in just 23 minutes of play due to foul trouble, and Marquis Teague had 8 points to go along with 5 assists.
After the Cardinals took an early 2-0 lead, Kentucky went on an 8-0 run to force a timeout by Louisville, and the Wildcats never trailed again in the game. Kentucky built a lead as big as 10 points three different times in the first half, but Louisville wouldn’t go away and UK led 35-28 at the half despite shooting 60% to just 37% for the Cardinals.
The Cats looked like they might pull away early in the second half as they built their largest lead of the game at 45-32 with 16 minutes to play in the game, and led 46-34 at the under `15 TV timeout. Louisville held the Wildcats scoreless for the next 5 minutes, however, and went on a 15-3 run to tie the score at 49-49 with 8:45 to play.
Kentucky then responded with back to back baskets by Kidd-Gilchrist to push the lead back to 53-49. Louisville cut the lead to 53-51 with 7:34 left, but a 7-0 run over the next 4:23 pushed the lead to 60-51 and the game got no closer than five the rest of the way.
Wildcat fans have to be thrilled by the way the Cats responded to the Louisville run late in the second half. Hats off to Louisville-they did everything they had to do to keep this game close. Not only did they dictate the pace, but their pressure defense forced 14 turnovers and it also bothered the Kentucky backcourt much of the game. The Cardinals pounded the glass and out rebounded the Cats 16-5 on the offensive glass.
Yet, with all of that, when Louisville made their run to tie the game at 49-49, the Wildcats did what they have done so many times this season – they swatted away a pesky opponent and used their dominant talent to win. Simply put, the Cards were outmanned and Kentucky just had too many weapons for them.
Certainly, there were some troubling things in this game…Terrence Jones disappeared again for much of the game, but unlike previous games, when challenged by Coach Calipari, Jones responded and got some huge rebounds down the stretch. Kidd-Gilchrist struggled with foul trouble, partially thanks to unexplainable charge calls, and he suffered what was called a “quad injury.” He returned after the injury and looked fine, however, and was huge down the stretch.
In beating the Cardinals, the Wildcats are now 37-2 on the year and have set a new school record for wins, eclipsing the 1947-48 team who was 36-3.
As has been the case all season, this was a total team effort, and the Wildcats were not to be denied. It was a gritty performance over a determined, tough foe. Kentucky will now play Monday night for their eighth national championship, and I believe they will win it no matter who they play on Monday.
This team has a will to win and a toughness that I didn’t think existed in December. They will not be denied.
Go Cats!go back