Saturday, March 31, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 69, Louisville 61
By Dana O'Neil
NEW ORLEANS -- A quick look at Kentucky’s 69-61 victory over Louisville in Saturday's first national semifinal.
Overview: The commonwealth of Kentucky’s Game for the Ages boiled down to the simplest principle in sport -- talent wins.
Louisville gave the archrival Wildcats all they could handle, coming back time and again from double-digit deficits, but guts and spunk simply don’t overrun talent.
And Kentucky has it in droves, thanks in large part to the lanky body that is Anthony Davis.
The national player of the year was simply too much for the Cardinals to handle, scoring 18 points and denying who knows how many for Louisville.
Never a good offensive team this season, Louisville kept it close by rebounding its misses to the tune of a 19-6 edge on the offensive glass, but in the end Kentucky was too good, claiming state bragging rights that will linger among generations and families for years.
Turning point: After Peyton Siva hit a 3 to tie the game 49-49 and ignite the already-well-ignited Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd with just over nine minutes to play, the Cardinals failed to convert another field goal for more than six minutes.
Louisville couldn’t get a good shot -- some of which was self-induced, but mostly thanks to the always-imposing presence of Davis.
Kentucky nudged its way to a 55-51 lead and then, with 5:07 left, Marquis Teague flipped a pass to senior Darius Miller in transition. The senior swished the 3-point dagger.
Anthony Davis scored 18 points to go with 14 rebounds and 5 blocks against Louisville.
Key stat: The Wildcats shot 57 percent from the floor, putting together a terrific offensive night against a team that ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency.
Key player: Davis seems like a good pick. Seriously, he is an athletic freak in the best sense of the word and was absolutely everywhere for Kentucky. He finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists and a steal. And he played 39 minutes.
Unfortunately the box score does not take into account altered or influenced shots -- because Davis might have set an NCAA record there.
If Louisville got inside, the Cardinals thought twice about shooting -- and if they dared to take a shot, they sent up such high-arcing floaters they nearly reached the Superdome roof.
Davis was spectacular on a night when two of his teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were average, adding even more to the crucial impact the freshman had on the game.
Miscellaneous: Kentucky has won 40 consecutive games when leading at the half, dating back to Feb. 1, 2011, against Ole Miss. … A Louisville cheerleader taken out by Jones returned in the second half. Word is she had four stitches during the break.
What’s next: Kentucky, hands down the best team in the country, looks to claim its first title since 1998 on Monday night against Kansas.