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Monday, April 2, 2012
Kentucky books spot in NCAA final
NEW ORLEANS — Kentucky owns the Bluegrass State. Now it can concentrate on the rest of the country.
Anthony Davis and top-seeded Kentucky will play for the national title Monday night after finally putting away pesky Louisville 69-61 in the Final Four on Saturday.
It will be Kentucky's first appearance in the title game since winning a seventh NCAA crown back in 1998 and gives coach John Calipari another shot at the title that has eluded him.
"I'm proud of this team. They're coming together," Calipari said. "They've taken on shots and runs like Louisville did today, and they've held their own, so I'm proud of them."
As the final seconds ticked down, Davis pointed to the court and screamed twice "This is my stage!"
Yes, yes, it is.
With Davis, everybody's player of the year, leading a star-studded roster, Kentucky was the top seed in the tournament and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets when the whole tournament was done. And Calipari wouldn't let his young players consider anything else, saying repeatedly this was "just another game."
But playing in-state rival Louisville (30-10) is never just that, and the Cardinals made Kentucky work deep into the second half to grind this victory out.
Louisville outrebounded Kentucky 40-33, including a whopping 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass — the sole reason the Cardinals were able to make a game of this.
"I just said John, 'I'll be pulling for you, bring the trophy back home to Kentucky,' " Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Sometimes there's a lot of talk about these guys fighting, dialysis, there's also really a lot of people that get along. . . . For those that have brains, they root for each other.
"We like their basketball team; we hope they bring it home for the state."
Kansas rallies past OSU
NEW ORLEANS — The tightrope walk rocks on for the Jayhawks.
Kansas, the underrated, undervalued team that's been teetering on the edge of the tournament since before it even began, is now one of the last two left.
Tyshawn Taylor made two big free throws late, and All-American Thomas Robinson finished with 19 points and eight rebounds Saturday night to lift the Jayhawks to a come-from-behind 64-62 win over Ohio State in the Final Four — a game Kansas led for a grand total of 3 minutes, 48 seconds.
After scoring the game's first bucket, Kansas didn't lead again until Travis Releford made two free throws with 2:48 left. That lasted for 11 seconds, but the Jayhawks (32-6), who trailed by as many as 13, overcame another deficit and finally held on against the Buckeyes (31-8).
"It's just been our thing all year, coming back," Robinson said. "I don't like doing it, but for some reason my team is pretty good when we're down."
More than pretty good. Kansas is one more magic act from bringing its second title in five years back to Allen Fieldhouse. It might take exactly that. The opponent is Kentucky, the big-time favorite to win it all. The Wildcats are an early 6.5-point favorite.
"It's a dream to play the best team in the country, up 'til now, hands down, the most consistent," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's a thrill. And I think it's even more of a thrill for us, because I don't think anybody thought we could get here."