FIRST HALF IN REVIEW
The Cinderella Utes did make it the ball and for the first 20 minutes looked every bit like a championship team. After Kentucky grabbed an early 11-8 lead five minutes into the game, Utah went on a 28-14 run keyed by its big three, Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and Hanno Mottola. The three combined for 18 of those points. Not to be outdone, Alex Jensen had three big baskets and a free throw during the 11-minute spree as Utah grabbed a 36-25 lead with only four minutes remaining in the period. But the biggest difference, and the key to the half was on the boards. With Kentucky’s big man, Nazr Mohammed getting into foul trouble, the Utes dominated the glass, outrebounding the Wildcats by a whopping 24-6 margin. Kentucky climbed within six, 37-31, on two free throws by Cameron Mills with 2:27 left in the half, but the Utes got baskets from Britton Johnsen and Drew Hansen to close the half with a 10-point lead.
* KENTUCKY’S LEADING SCORERS: Scott Padgett 8, Mohammed 8.
* KENTUCKY’S LEADING REBOUNDERS: Padgett 2
* OTHER STUFF: Normally a good three-point shooting team, the Wildcats were 0 for six from long distance. . . . It was a quiet half for Kentucky’s leading scorer, Jeff Sheppard, who had only four points. . . . While they did get pounded on the boards, the Wildcats had only six turnovers.
* UTAH’S LEADING SCORERS: Doleac 12
* UTAH’S LEADING REBOUNDERS: Mottola 7, Doleac 6
* OTHER STUFF: Utah shot 57% in the half and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. . . . Big negative of the half was 12 turnovers.
SECOND HALF IN REVIEW
No team had ever come back from a 10-point halftime deficit in the championship game, but these had been the comeback ‘Cats all season. While the two heavyweight guards, Kentucky’s Sheppard and Utah’s Miller would battle it out down the stretch, it was Wildcat reserve Heshimu Evans who got them back into the game. With Kentucky trailing 47-37, Evans made three consecutive baskets, two of them three-pointers, to pull Kentucky within five at 50-45 with 13:42 remaining. The relentless ‘Cats kept pushing and the Utes were beginning to tire. A 9-0 Kentucky run with 7:13 left in the game, gave the Wildcats their first lead of the half, 60-58 on a basket by Sheppard. Utah fought on, even regaining the lead 64-60, but Kentucky would not be denied. A three-pointer by Mills, a basket by Sheppard and two free throws by Jamaal Magloire put Kentucky ahead for good with 4:16 left, 67-64.
* KENTUCKY’S LEADING SCORERS: Sheppard 12, Evans 10.
* KENTUCKY’S LEADING REBOUNDERS: Evans 6.
* OTHER STUFF: After being pounded on the boards in the first half, Kentucky outrebound Utah 18-15 in the second. . . . The Wildcats also shot better in the half, shooting a 57% from the floor. . . . Sheppard scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. . . . Evans had all of his 10 points in second half.
* UTAH’S LEADING SCORERS: Miller 9.
* UTAH’S LEADING REBOUNDERS: Doleac 4, Hansen 4
* OTHER STUFF: Utah shot only 29% in the second half. . . . The Utes were 2-of-8 on three pointers. . . . Doleac had only three points in the second half.