NEW ORLEANS -- Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis was clearly in pain when he went crashing to the floor early in the second half against Baylor on Sunday.
The consensus national player of the year didn't have the same gait afterward, and was deemed to have a bruise. Davis went in the game, went out, and then came back again.
But he didn’t want to stop playing, and finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in 32 minutes. He didn’t leave until a bloody lip with 33 seconds left forced him to come out of the game with Kentucky ahead by double figures.
Davis publicly said he was fine after the game, but that’s not the whole story.
“I’m not going to lie,’’ he said Thursday at the Superdome. “I felt sore. It was tight, and I really couldn’t move it. It was just all the adrenaline that kept me going during the game. It started hurting after the game.’’
Davis said that he got treatment immediately Monday, an off day for UK. He needed to make sure the knee was iced up, and that he was rested and relaxed. Davis said during Tuesday’s practice, all he could do was ride a bike.
But by Wednesday he was out on the court running and competing in a full practice.
“He’s been great, but it was funny when I walked over, he said he hit knees, and I said, 'Come on mama's boy, come on,' said Kentucky coach John Calipari. "He's the greatest."
With Davis’ health no longer an issue, Kentucky is the heavy favorite here in New Orleans. But the Wildcats, even the freshmen, are used to the attention and the pressure.
“We’ve been the favorite the whole year,’’ said sophomore guard Doron Lamb. “Everybody wants to win every game. There is really no pressure on us. We are used to this. Everybody is expecting us to win the whole thing. We have to go out there and prove to the world that we are one of the best teams in the country.’’
Sophomore Terrence Jones dismissed the notion that the Cats are under any more pressure than anyone else.
“It’s the Final Four, there is pressure enough,’’ Jones said. “With being the No. 1 team, having the target on our back that we have had all year, it just adds enough pressure as it is.’’
The players diffused any chatter that there is added significance in playing Louisville to get to the national title. They fully expect that the Wildcats will have to defend the 3-point shot, deal with UL’s ball pressure, and ensure they are fundamentally sound with the basketball.
“I know how much this means to me, and how much this means to the team,’’ said Jones of simply playing in the Final Four. “The Final Four is the most important thing.’’
Davis is from Chicago, but he has started to grasp the nature of the rivalry between the Commonwealth's fans. Miller wasn’t aware of the infamous fight at a dialysis center, but wasn’t surprised.
“Fans are crazy,’’ Davis said. “They told us last night that some Kentucky and Louisville fans got into a fight on Bourbon Street. The fans really care about their sports and will do anything to say their school is a better school. That’s where we come in. We try to downplay it.
"It’s a big game for the fans and the state of Kentucky, the whole rivalry, but we look at it as another game. That’s how you have to look at it, but you need to let the fans and the Kentucky program and Louisville program take pride in it.’’