Anthony Davis had to be great all night long, while the future NBA players around him had trouble dominating for long stretches. The Freshman led Kentucky to a 69-61 win over Louisville in the opening game of the Final Four, making it to the national finals for the first time since 1998, which was the last time the title went to the Big Blue nation.
What can you say about Lousiville, but praise their effort? Great defense in the second half pulled them level. The shifting and pressing zone defense, with Gorgui Dieng as the anchor in the middle, finishing with 7 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals gave the penetrating guards a very hard time. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist struggled with foul trouble, finishing with 9 points.
The Cardinals fought their heart out, out hustling Kentucky for most of the game. It wasn’t enough. They crashed the offensive boards, winning 16 of them. They caused Kentucky to turn the ball over 14 times, with the Wildcats finding avoiding offensive fouls very hard to do. Peyton Siva forgot about his first half and scored 11 in the second. Russ Smith came off the bench to help push the wagon up the hill but just missed too much. It was barely a fair fight to begin with.
And now Calipari is headed into his second national title game, hoping this doesn’t turn out like the Memphis – Kansas final did in 2008, when his guys kept missing free throws. Kentucky had trouble with only 11-20 from the line against Louisville, in an aggressive game called well by the referees, who let the guys beat up on each other to a reasonable level. Oh, and it’s Kansas waiting just before the finish line.
There’s plenty of talk about bragging rights in the Commonwealth, but Kentucky have set their sights at something a bit more lucrative. That national title Big Blue Nation expects to win each and every season, or at least it seems like it. For most of the tournament, it seemed that Kentucky really are too good for everyone else. But Louisville showed they’re vulnerable, but showing that and fully capitalizing on those vulnerabilities is a different thing.
Kasnas have the size to handle Anthony Davis. But Davis is only half the story. If Jeff Withey can handle Davis alone without coming out to help the countless penetrations by the Wildcats’ players, unlike Dieng who seemed especially out of place during the early moments of the game, Kansas have more tools offensively than Louisville to make the final of the 2012 NCAA tournament more than a cakewalk towards an 8th tournament championship.