Your 2012 NCAA South Regional champions, the Kentucky Wildcats!
For the second straight season, the Kentucky Wildcats are going to the Final Four. I know you are all as happy with this turn of events as I am, and I am outrageously happy.
First of all, I want to thank the Baylor Bears for a good game that was much more competitive in the second half than I was comfortable with. After establishing a very large 21 point lead or so, the Wildcats gave all but 12 points back, and at one point with over a minute to go, Baylor got it within 10 points with the ball, and at that point, I think I saw my life passing before my eyes.
But the Wildcats held firm, and in the end won a contest that wound up a lot closer than most would have predicted after the blowout first half. Great comeback by Baylor, and if there is any succor in scaring two or three years off a skittish Wildcat blogger's life, Baylor did.
For Kentucky, it was a dominating performance for about 35 minutes. A combination of missed free throws and quick scores by the Bears gave the game far more drama than Kentucky fans would have hoped, but the Wildcats were able to hold on for the win. Anthony Davis also came up grabbing his knee about midway through the second half, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned, but where Davis grabbed his knee suggested that it wasn't a serious injury, and sure enough it wasn't as he saw plenty of minutes, although with somewhat reduced effectiveness. Hopefully, the six-day interregnum between now and the national semifinal will help any insults to his knee heal up.
I was frankly amazed at the abject domination of the Wildcats over this extremely talented Baylor team, who matched up very well with UK at every position. But it didn't seem that way, because Kentucky went on a 17-3 run, and carried a 20-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
The second half saw UK control the game for most of the half, but the injury to Davis absolutely put a damper on the Kentucky team, and you could see the impact it had almost immediately. Fortunately, it seemed minor, and Davis returned to the game for most of the contest, and did numerous good things. But he did not look 100%, although he didn't look seriously hampered.
In the end, Kentucky just had too big a lead to overcome, and despite a very poor outing from the free throw line, the Wildcats won this game convincingly, if not completely comfortably.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a force of nature in this game. Almost every foul he made, and he made five, were fouls of aggressive commission. He dominated the game in the big run in almost every conceivable way, scored 19 points on 7-10 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4-4 from the line. He was the passion that fueled the Wildcats' machine, a maelstrom which seemed to consume the Baylor will. Game ball.
- Anthony Davis. A double-double despite a scary knee injury, and six more blocks to go along with his 18 points and 11 rebounds.
- Terrence Jones got a very long, hard look for player of the game. He only scored 12 points, but he had 9 huge rebounds, most of them in major traffic, and an incredible 6 assists. Fantastic game.
- Marquis Teague didn't have a great game, but he did a good job with Baylor's frenetic pressure in the second half. 3 assists, 4 turnovers and 8 points.
- Doron Lamb had an up and down game. He didn't score in the first half, missing several good looks, but he did make a three in the second half and had a couple of steals. It wasn't his greatest game in spite of his 14 points, but it was plenty good enough.
- Darius Miller did what he always does -- create nightmare matchups and be the perfect glue guy. He didn't shoot great, but he had 3 assists and 2 steals. More importantly, he made every free throw he took (4-4).
- Kyle Wiltjer didn't play that much, but once again, the buried a three that really extended the Kentucky run. Per minute, he may lead the team in scoring in this tournament.
Not so superlative:
- Free throw shooting. Too many misses made this game closer than it should have been. Doron Lamb was particularly poor for some reason.
- I wish we had waited a little longer to go to the delay game, but Calipari knows what he's doing. I'm just a fan.
Not much to really be critical of, so I'm done with that.
Outstanding game by Kentucky, and we are going back to the Final Four for the second year in a row. Does anyone remember when we last had a run like that? Yep, it was during Rick Pitino's tenure, or the first year of Tubby Smiths and last of Rick Pitino's, whatever you prefer. In any case, Kentucky went to the Final Four three straight years. But for a tough shooting game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, we would be there again for the third straight year.
Celebrate with me, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. We have done it. Next up -- the Louisville Cardinals, but more on that later.