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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk: Kansas players celebrate on the bench during their game against North Carolina on Sunday in St. Louis. Kansas won 80-67 to advance to the Final Four. AP

Kentucky crushes Baylor; Kansas stops UNC in Elite Eight

AP

ATLANTA — 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.

Top-seeded Kentucky advanced to the Final Four for the second year in a row with an 82-70 blitzing of Baylor, setting up a Bluegrass showdown with rival Louisville in the national semifinals Saturday at New Orleans.

Michael 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 national title.

"I'm not satisfied yet," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

This 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.

"This 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."

The 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."

Calipari, 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.

"There 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."

MIDWEST REGIONAL

Kansas 80, North Carolina 67

In St. Louis, Tyshawn Taylor broke out of his slump in a big way Sunday, scoring 22 points and leading Kansas back to the Final Four with a victory over former coach Roy Williams and top-seeded North Carolina.

The second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) will play Ohio State on Saturday in their first appearance in the Final Four since 2008, when they won the national championship. And how's this for symmetry? Kansas began this year's tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, same place as four years ago.

As the game ended, Taylor — much maligned for his shooting struggles during the first three games of the NCAA tournament — ran to Kansas fans and raised both arms in the air.

"There's no way to put into words the way we feel," Williams said. "There's no way to put into words the way I feel. . . . It's the NCAA tournament. One team wins and one team loses, and that's what we have to understand."

Taylor led five Jayhawks in double figures. Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson added 18 points and nine rebounds, and Elijah Johnson kept up his blistering pace in the tournament with 10 points.



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