Kentucky freshmen too much for Kansas as Wildcats prevail in NCAA final
The young Wildcats, led by Anthony Davis, raced out to a big first half lead, then held off the Jayhawks to win the school's eighth NCAA championship.
(Page 2 of 2)
"It (stinks) that we have to be down 14 before we want to start fighting," KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "Guess that's kind of what happened."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
So, the Jayhawks settled for the "B'' League title this year, as Calipari avenged a final-game loss to Bill Self back in 2008 when Cal was coaching Memphis. The Tigers missed four late free throws in blowing a nine-point lead in that one. Kansas didn't get any such help this time.
Even so, it wasn't a bad season in Lawrence, considering where KU began.
Kansas lost four of its top five scorers off last year's roster. There were times early in the season when Self and his old buddy and mentor, Larry Brown, would stand around at practices and wonder if this was a team that could even make the tournament. It did. Won its eighth straight conference title, too.
"Nobody even expected us to be here in the first place, for us to have a great season," KU guard Travis Releford said. "And we did. We were able to compete for a championship. We had a great year."
Kentucky's was better, and Davis certainly did nothing to hurt his draft stock despite missing more shots in this game than he had in the last three.
He set the tone early on defense, swatting Robinson's shot twice, grabbing rebounds, making pretty bounce passes for assists.
Early in the second half, he made a steal that also could have been an assist, knocking the ball out of Robinson's hands and directly to Jones, who dunked for a 46-30 lead.
Then, finally. With 5:13 left in the game, he spotted up for a 15-foot jumper from the baseline that swished for a 59-44 lead, putting a dagger in one of Kansas' many comebacks.
"He was terrific," Self said. "The basket he made was one of the biggest baskets of the game."
His only bucket of the game — could that be a different sort of spin on "one and done?"
Well, if Davis does choose to leave, Cal can certainly handle it. He has mastered the art of rebuilding on the fly.
He's the coach who brings in the John Walls, Brandon Knights and Derrick Roses (at Memphis) for cups of coffee, lets them sharpen up their resumes, then happily says goodbye when it becomes obvious there's nothing left for them to do in school.
The coach refuses to apologize for the way he recruits or how he runs his program. Just playing by the rules as they're set up, he says, even if he doesn't totally agree with them. Because he refuses to promise minutes or shots to any recruit and demands teamwork out of all of them, he says he comes by these players honestly.
He has produced nine first-round picks in the last four drafts, including five in 2010. That draft day was as big a moment for the school as any, Calipari said. A pretty big statement for the program built by Adolph Rupp.
"The reason was, I knew now that other kids would look and say, 'You've got to go there,'" Calipari said.
This latest group came and won it all.
"I wanted that," Calipari said. "I told them I wanted this to be one for the ages."