Kentucky rolls on to Big Easy
Kidd-gilchrist, Davis shine
ATLANTA | Kentucky is taking its highlight show back to New Orleans.
With an Nba-like display from a young team filled with future pros, the top-seeded Wildcats advanced to the Final Four for the second year in a row with an 82-70 blitzing of Baylor in the South Regional final Sunday.
Michael Kidd- Gilchrist scored 19 points, Anthony Davis added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Terrence Jones dazzled in all the overlooked areas, leading the Wildcats (362) to a Bluegrass showdown with rival Louisville in the national semifinals on Saturday in New Orleans.
For all the hoopla sure to surround that game in the bas-
ketball-crazed state, Kentucky won’t consider the season a success unless it wins two more games — culminating in a national title.
“This team is playing for you and playing for each other,” coach John Calipari told the predominantly blueclad crowd when it was over. “Let’s see if we can keep this thing rolling a bit.”
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 Calipari’s latest group of Fab Freshmen. Kentucky took control with an early 16-0 run and led by 20 at halftime.
They might as well have cut down the nets right then.
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 them on to the NBA before they’ve barely had time to find their way to class.
Then he starts the whole process over again.
Two years ago, John Wall led Kentucky to the regional final. Last season, Brandon Knight helped guide the Wildcats to the Final Four. Now, with those guys in the NBA and KiddGilchrist and Davis stopping off for what likely will be their only season in Lexington, Big Blue has a shot at what those last two teams failed to do: bringing Kentucky its first national title since 1998.
But all the talk about Calipari’s oneand-done tactics, he’s getting plenty of contributions from those who hung around beyond their freshman year. Take Jones, a sophomore forward who passed up the draft. He scored just one point in the opening half, but his fingerprints were all over Kentucky’s dominating performance: nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals.
Then there’s Darius Miller, one of only two seniors on the roster. He gave up his starting role to Kidd- Gilchrist in this one — Kentucky essentially has six starters — but contributed four points, two assists and two steals to the first-half blowout.
At one point, Kidd-gilchrist had as many points as Baylor’s entire team: 17 apiece. Kentucky led 42-22 at the break and Baylor never got any closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
The Wildcats left New Orleans earlier this month disappointed with a loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Quincy Acy led Baylor with 22 points.
Acy tried to send a message early on that Baylor would not be intimidated by the Wildcats.
With Jones in the clear and going in for a fastbreak layup, the 235-pound Acy came up from behind, took a whack at the ball but mainly just crashed into the Kentucky player, sending him flying into the Baylor cheerleaders along the baseline. Jones was OK, and the officials doled out a flagrant foul on Acy after looking at the replay.
Jones made one of the free throws, Kentucky missed a jumper and the Bears, seemingly inspired by Acy’s bravado, ripped off an 8-0 run that led Calipari to call a quick timeout. He already had yanked Doron Lamb from the game for trying to make the highlight reels rather than taking a layup. The sophomore guard passed up a clear path to the basket, instead opting for a lob pass to the trailing Davis.
The big man missed the dunk, hanging on the rim as Baylor grabbed the rebound and took off the other way for a basket.
After Quincy Miller hit an uncontested 3-pointer from the top of the lane to give Baylor a 10-5 lead, Calipari lashed into his young team and, boy, did they respond.
Sixteen consecutive points, an Nba-like display of defensive dominance and easy baskets that sent the Georgia Dome, and the predominantly blue-clad crowd, into a frenzy.
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (facing camera) and Baylor’s Perry Jones III battle for the ball during the second half. Davis, a freshman, scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.