Recap: Kentucky vs. Kansas
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - The gap between the two winningest programs in college basketball history just got a little bigger.
Anthony Davis scored six points, but filled the rest of the stat sheet, and Kentucky won its eighth national championship Monday night with a 67-59 victory over Kansas.
The top-seeded Wildcats, with a roster of future NBA players, led by as many as 18 points in the first half and survived a 13-3 run by Kansas in the second that came after Davis made his only field goal with around five minutes left.
Davis, the consensus national player of the year, was named Most Outstanding Player despite going 1-for-10 from the field on the game's biggest stage.
The freshman had 16 rebounds, six blocks and five assists, letting the rest of the team pick up the slack in the scoring column.
"I don't know any team that sacrificed for each other like this one and they deserve this moment," said Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Doron Lamb led the Wildcats (38-2) with 22 points while Marquis Teague scored 14 off the bench and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 11.
Thomas Robinson had 18 points and 17 rebounds to lead Kansas (32-7), Tyshawn Taylor scored 19 and Elijah Johnson had 13 points.
Kentucky captured its first title since 1998 with a run through the tournament befitting its No. 1 overall seed, culminating in a dominant first half against Kansas good enough to withstand the late cold spell that turned the national championship game into a horse race, if only for a few minutes.
The Jayhawks, seeking their fourth title and second in five seasons, fought the way they had so many times in the tournament to overcome a slow start.
"They really controlled everything the first 20 minutes. But, you know, we got the game the way we wanted it," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "It was a muddy track. We had opportunities."
Davis didn't score his first point until a foul shot 4 1/2 minutes into the second half and it took him over 10 more minutes to make his only shot -- a jumper from the left side that gave Kentucky a 15-point lead with 5:12 left.
Kansas followed with a 13-3 run and got within 62-57 on Robinson's free throws with 1:37 remaining.
But the Jayhawks made just one more shot -- Taylor's floater in the lane with 39.8 ticks left -- while committing two key turnovers down the stretch.
A backcourt violation came as the Jayhawks struggled to regroup following a blocked shot, and Johnson was whistled for traveling after pump-faking Davis into the air with 23.5 seconds left and a chance to get his team within four.
Kentucky is the NCAA's all-time leader with 2,090 wins; Kansas is second with 2,070.
"I told [my team] I wanted this to be one for the ages," said Calipari. "Go out there and show everyone what kind of team you are, even though we were young. It doesn't matter how young you are, it's how you play together."
The Kentucky coach finally held his first national championship trophy in the middle of the Superdome after leading three teams -- including the Wildcats in each of the last two seasons -- to the Final Four.
"I told my wife, I'm glad it's done," said Calipari. "Now I can get about my business of coaching basketball and getting these players to be the best that they can be, helping young people, you know, create better lives for themselves and their families, and also helping them prepare for life after basketball.
"I can get on with that. I don't have to hear the drama. I can just coach now. I don't have to worry. If you want to know the truth, it's almost like, 'Done, let me move on.'"
The Wildcats beat the Jayhawks twice this season, also winning a game in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15 when its standout freshman -- including Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Teague -- were just two games into their college careers.
Davis couldn't say whether he would declare for the NBA Draft, though it has long been assumed he would.
"I haven't decided," he said. "We have until April 29th to decide. I'm going to wait, sit down with my coach, sit down with my family, see what the best decision is for me."
Self was trying to beat Calipari twice in the title game after guiding Kansas to the 2008 championship over Memphis, which was led by Calipari at the time. He said Kentucky had the Jayhawks "on our heels" after the first half.
"I don't think we lost," said Self. "They just beat us."
The Wildcats shot 41.1 percent in this one, but just 26.9 percent in the second half. Kansas also stymied North Carolina and Ohio State in the second half of its previous two games to make the final.
The Jayhawks, a No. 2 seed, shot 35.5 percent.
Their title shot took a hit early as they struggled to keep up with Kentucky's offense in the first half while looking overwhelmed by the Wildcats' defense.
"We won tonight with defense and rebounding," said Davis, who won the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award among several other player of the year awards this season.
Davis didn't score in the first half, going 0-for-4, but had nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks before the break.
Kidd-Gilchrist and fellow Kentucky starter Terrence Jones were banged up in the half, but both remained on the floor and helped the Wildcats shoot 53.3 percent.
Kansas shot 33.3 percent -- another down first half in a tournament where three of its five wins came by three points or fewer.
Kidd-Gilchrist seemed to favor his right shoulder after he was fouled hard going to the basket just over a minute into the game, while Jones rolled his left ankle near the three-point line as he dribbled in transition and was called for traveling.
Still, the Wildcats led by 16 after Darius Miller's three-pointer from the high left side with under four minutes left and went ahead by 18 on Lamb's bucket inside three minutes.
Later, Kidd-Gilchrist's driving layup pushed the lead back to 18 but Kansas scored the last four points of the half on layups from Robinson and Taylor and was within 41-27 at the break.Game Notes
Kentucky is 21-6 all-time against Kansas...The Wildcats' only losses this season came on a buzzer-beater at Indiana on Dec. 10 and against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament title game. They beat Western Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana, Baylor and Louisville to reach Monday's game...Kansas' tournament wins came against Detroit, Purdue, NC State, North Carolina and Ohio State...Kentucky improved to 8-3 in national title games, while Kansas fell to 3-5...Davis was the first Kentucky player to win the Naismith and first to win the Wooden and was the second freshman to win both awards after Kevin Durant...Calipari's trips to the Final Four with Massachusetts (1996) and Memphis (2008) were vacated by NCAA violations. He took Kentucky to two straight Final Fours.