Head Coach John Calipari finally made it to the summit after Kentucky’s 67-59 win over Kansas in the recently-played NCAA men’s basketball national title game at the New Orleans Superdome.
Calipari had guided the University of Massachusetts with center Marcus Camby, and Memphis with point guard Derrick Rose to close proximity of cutting down the nets.
This was Calipari’s first banner, but it may not be his last if he continues to recruit players such as NBA-ready center Anthony Davis and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The 40-minute clash wasn’t the Wildcats’ best effort; however it will have to do since it’ll be the eighth banner to hang in Lexington’s Rupp Arena, second-best to UCLA’s 11.
Davis was the Most Outstanding Player, but it was because of his defensive prowess.
Davis scored only six points, but grabbed a team-high 16 rebounds with six blocks and five assists.
“It’s about defense and rebounding,’’ said Davis, who was also named the John Wooden Award winner and the Associated Press’ Player of the Year. “It’s not about me. It’s about the guys behind me. I was having a hard time scoring. I told them I’ll block and rebound. You go out and score.”
The Wildcats like to run-and-gun, and that’s what they did against the run-happy Jayhawks, as they led 41-27 at the intermission.
“We defended, especially in the first half,’’ said Calipari, whose team hit 23 of 56 shots from the floor (41.1 percent). “I knew even when we had the big lead, they were going to come back and make it a game.”
The Wildcats opened a 13-9 cushion with 14:18 showing, and led 23-14 with 10:45 left.
Kentucky (38-2) pulled in front 31-19 with 7:14 left after point guard Marquis Teague (14 points) buried a three-pointer.
Kentucky went on a 6-2 burst before the Jayhawks (22 of 62 for 35.5 percent) outscored the Wildcats 6-4 over the next 3:33.
“They’re a great team,’’ said Kansas Head Coach Bill Self, who led the Jayhawks to a national championship in 2008 over Memphis. “We lost to the better team.’’
Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb (game-best 22 points) paced the Wildcats with 12 points at the half, followed by Kidd-Gilchrist’s 11.
Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson tallied eight of his 18 points at the half, and pulled down six of his game-high 17 rebounds.
With 15:30 showing, Kentucky led 44-30 after Davis made one of two free throws. Power forward Terrence Jones (nine points with seven boards) stole the ball and dunked it with 14:44 left as Kentucky led by 16.
Jayhawks’ shooting guard Elijah Johnson (13 points) trimmed it to 12 with his slam and 13:52 left.
The Jayhawks (32-7) closed within 48-38 and 11:12 left, while Robinson and point guard Tyshawn Taylor (team-high 19 points) made it somewhat close late.
Lamb’s three-pointer made it 51-38, and Kentucky built a 54-38 lead with 10 minutes left.
Taylor’s hoop and free throw with four minutes left made it 59-50, it became 59-52 with 3:52 showing when Robinson drilled two charity tosses, and Kansas made it a five-point spread with 1:37 left.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.