March 25, 2012
Baylor bails against KentuckyNo. 3 seed no match for tournament favourite as Kentucky rolls into Final Four
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
If there were any doubters before that Kentucky was the best team in college basketball, few must be remaining now.
The Wildcats annihilated a very good Baylor squad 82-70 on Sunday in Atlanta, booking a trip to New Orleans for a meeting with arch-rival Lousville and former head coach Rick Pitino.
Star freshman Anthony Davis had his way with the
No. 3 seeds, who finished the year 30-8, before putting a scare in not only head coach John Calipari, but in all of the NBA’s lottery teams as well by banging knees with Perry Jones III.
Davis and Jones both eventually returned, but Davis wasn’t as effective, though Jones found his game after the collision.
Still, Davis finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Kentucky, 36-2, proved again why the No. 1 overall seed it was given was richly deserved and why Louisville and anybody else will have such a difficult time knocking them out.
Too big, too long, too skilled and too athletic, Kentucky erased an early five-point Baylor lead — the biggest deficit it has faced so far in the tournament — and headed into halftime up 42-22.
“We were ready to play and it was really good to see,” Calipari said afterward.
Davis and fellow frosh Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 31 of those 42 points, with Kidd-Gilchrist asserting his will on the game, especially when smaller players tried to slow him down. It’s possible those Kentucky standouts could be the first players selected this June at the NBA draft.
Kidd-Gilchrist added 19 points.
Meanwhile, relatively grizzled veteran Terrence Jones also came through with a big effort for Calipari, filling up the stat sheet in a complete game with 12 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks.
Jones could have left for the NBA last year following Kentucky’s disappointing exit, but he knew his coach would reload with an even better group — nobody recruits better than Coach Cal, who nonetheless is still in search of his first championship.
The Wildcats also start freshman point guard Marquis Teague, who was quiet.
Kentucky’s athleticism and smothering defence are major reasons why the team is so successful, but the team also takes care of the ball superbly.
A game after committing only six turnovers despite eclipsing the 100-point mark, KU made 16 shots in the first half against only three turnovers, though the numbers were only eight made field goals against six turnovers in the second half, allowing Baylor to avoid being blown out.
Still, it was a tough ending to a strong season for the Bears, who had looked so good over the past two weeks. Perry Jones was a non-factor early and his teammates simply didn’t have the necessary edge and commitment necessary to run with such an elite opponent.
Senior Quincy Acy led Baylor with 22 points and eight rebounds, Pierre Jackson added 21, Jones 17. Burlington’s Brady Heslip was held to four points.
Kentucky only played seven players, but four of them scored in double figures.
Pitino is a heck of a coach, with a better track record than Calipari and Louisville is really rolling, but don’t expect the Final Four to be a repeat of 2011.
If you’ll recall, eventual champion Connecticut — infused with confidence thanks to a spectacular run to the Big East tournament title and through success in the main tourney — took out favoured Kentucky to reach the final.
Louisville isn’t as good as that UConn team and Kentucky is much better than last year’s edition.
Be afraid Coach Pitino.
Be very afraid.
IT’S A BLOCK PARTY
Part of the reason why these Kentucky Wildcats are one of the top teams to come along in the NCAA in quite a while is because they terrorize opponents with their shot-blocking abilities.
No team has ever blocked as many shots in a single season as this Kentucky group (Emeka Okafor’s 2004 UConn team was the previous record-holder, followed by the 1989 Georgetown team that had both Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo dissuading teams from coming into the paint).
It starts with Anthony Davis who has averaged 4.6 rejections a night, but doesn’t end there.
Terrence Jones, a 6-foot-9 jumping jack blocks nearly two shots a game, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist turns away another and freshman Kyle Wiltjer — who has Canadian roots — averages half a block in limited minutes and would get more if he saw more time.
Even without Davis, Kentucky has more length and athleticism than most squads, making scoring inside a dicey proposition for opponents.