Rushed Reaction: #1 Kentucky 69, #4 Louisville 61Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2012
Three Key Takeaways.
- Anthony Davis Took Away Nearly Everything Inside. It wasn’t just the five blocks or the 14 rebounds, it was the presence of Anthony Davis that made a huge difference in tonight’s game. The word is that Louisville blew a total of 16 dunks, layups or short ones where they were clearly thinking about the shot-blocking phenom, but often times it seemed as if the Cardinals’ best offensive play was to drive the ball, loft a crazy shot over Davis, and leave an offensive rebound opportunity available to the other players. Pitino said afterward that Davis is as “fine a player as there is,” so it’s clear that he commands the greatest respect from every other team he plays.
- Louisville’s Offense Simply Couldn’t Manufacture Enough Points. We thought coming into this game that Louisville would have to find a way to manufacture 70+ points to win this game, and that turns out to have been spot on. Whether it was going to come from a Russ Smith explosion or some other player we weren’t sure, but we knew it had to come from somewhere. Instead, Louisville shot a mere 35% for the game and only had two players in double figures (Siva with 11; Behanan with 10). The Cards outrebounded UK and even got some help from the Wildcats’ 55% performance from the line, but there were just way too many empty trips especially when Louisville had tied the game 49-all with just over eight minutes left.
- Kentucky Isn’t Unbeatable, But They’re Damn Near It. Kentucky was destroyed on its defensive glass with Louisville grabbing 19 offensive boards and losing the overall battle by seven. The Wildcats left nine points on the free throw line. They turned the ball over 14 times and at times looked a little sloppy against the pressure. Terrence Jones (six points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (nine points) were largely missing until late in the game. And still, they beat the Cards by eight points and managed to stay in that range for most of the contest. Pitino alluded to this in his presser — both Kansas and Ohio State are capable of beating John Calipari’s team, but they’ll need to bring an A+ performance and hope that the Wildcats are having a “B night.”
Star of the Game. Anthony Davis, Kentucky. We mentioned his unreal defensive presence above, but his smooth 18 points on 7-8 shooting allowed Kentucky to build the early lead and created some distance when they had to pull away again late in the game. Throw in 14 rebounds, five blocks and countless other challenges, and he played like the NPOY that he has become.
Quotable. “Louisville will be rooting for Kentucky, which doesn’t happen very often, to bring home that trophy to the state.” — Rick Pitino, publicly stating that there’s no hard feelings in this intrastate rivalry.
Sights & Sounds. At the start of the game it wasn’t yet clear just how active the other fan groups of Ohio State and Kansas would be during this game, but it didn’t take long to find out. Buckeye fans in particular were almost unilaterally behind the Cardinals, presumably looking for the ‘easier’ opponent in the Championship Game on Monday night (assuming they advance themselves). Kansas fans, perhaps not wanting to jinx themselves, were not quite as vocal about their partisanship, perhaps waiting to see how things went with their game first.
What’s Next? Kentucky, of course has a date with destiny on Monday night in the National Championship game against either Kansas or Ohio State, and it will without question be the toughest team the Wildcats have seen in the NCAA Tournament regardless who advances. In some ways — shooting percentage, notably — UK played well; in others — rebounding and free throws — they didn’t. But UK-KU or UK-OSU will be one heckuva blockbuster game on Monday night.