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Kentucky defeats Kansas to win its eighth NCAA title

The Kentucky Wildcats withstood a late second-half rally by the Kansas Jayhawks to capture the program’s eight NCAA championship with a 67-59 victory on Monday night at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Kansas, which trailed by double digits for much of the game, had a chance to cut the lead to three points when guard Elijah Johnson elevated for a three-pointer. But a Kentucky defender forced him to pull the shot down, causing him to travel with 23.5 seconds left and Kentucky leading, 65-59.

Doron Lamb led the Wildcats in scoring wth 22 points, making three of six three-point shots. Star center Anthony Davis struggled on offense, making only one of 10 shots, but he shined everywhere else, finishing with 16 rebounds, six blocked shots, five assists and three steals.

The Jayhawks, who shot only 35.5%, were led by the trio of Tyshawn Taylor (19 points), Thomas Robinson (18) and Elijah Johnson (13).

Kansas trailed, 54-38, with nine minutes left after Lamb hit back-to-back three-pointers in a 38-second span. But Taylor hit a pair of three-pointers for the Jayhawks and Johnson added another a couple of minutes later to cut Kentucky’s lead to 59-50 with less than four minutes to play.

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Kansas keeps coming back.

Elijah Johnson’s three-pointer is followed by two Thomas Robinson free throws, cutting Kentucky’s lead to 62-57 with 1:37 left in trhe second half.

Kentucky Coach John Calipari has seen this before. His Memphis team led Kansas by nine with 2:11 left to play and lost in overtime in 2008.

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Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor shows up.

He makes a three-pointer -- his first in 21 attempts during the NCAA tournament.

After Jeff Withey rejected Kentucky’s Anthony Davis -- giving him a does of his own medicine -- Taylor raced up court, scored and was fouled. His free throw cuts the Kentucky lead to 59-50.

It’s the first time the Jayhawks have the deficit to less than 10 points since there were seven minutes left in the first half.

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Kansas still sits on the fringe of the NCAA title game, but Kentucky is having a hard time putting the Jayhawks away.

The Jayhawks are lurking after Elijah Johnson’s three-pointer cuts the Wildcats’ lead to 56-44 with 6:53 left in the second half.

But Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas’ top offensive players, are a combined 11 of 29 from the field.

Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is 0 for 8 from the field.

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Kentucky seems interested again, since this is the final game of the NCAA tournament.

Doron Lamb shakes loose the Wildcats’ cobwebs. He sinks back-to-back three-pointers in a 38-second span to give Kentucky a 54-38 lead with nine minutes left in the second half.

Lamb has 20 points to lead all scorers.

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Kansas seems to have remembered it’s a basketball power, too.

The Jayhawks score eight consecutive points -- four in a row to start by Elijah Johnson -- to cut the Kentucky lead to 10 points, 48-38, with 11:12 left in the NCAA tournament championship game.

Kentucky is shooting a woeful 21% in second half.

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Anthony Davis scores!

The Kentucky center makes one free throw for his first point of the NCAA tournament championship game with 15:30 left.

Moments later, though, Davis’ steal is converted into a dunk by Terrence Joners for a 46-30 Kentucky lead.

Davis has one point as well as 13 rebounds, five blocked shots, four assists and two steals.

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Kansas has trailed by double digits in three previous NCAA tournament games. Down again, the Jayhawks started the second half with scrappy defense.

On one possession, Kentucky had five chances. All they had to show for it was two misses, one blocked shot and two strips.

Still, the Jayhawks can’t match that effort on the other end of the court. Kansas has made only 12 of 39 shots and trails, 43-30, with 15 minutes 30 seconds left in the championship game.

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If the NBA draft was held at halftime, Kentucky center Anthony Davis would be the first pick. After that, it’s a tough call which Wildcat players would go second, third, fourth and fifth.

Kentucky’s 41-27 halftime lead is a poor indication of how the Wildcats manhandled Kansas through 20 minutes of play.

Davis has yet to score a point, but he has been the most dominant player on the court. He has nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.

Kansas started well, staying close for 10 minutes. A 14-4 run by Kentucky put the Wildcats in charge.

The Jayhawks have dealt with double-digit deficits throughout the NCAA tournament and clawed back with defense. But Kentucky appears to have too many players that need defending.

Doron Lamb has 12 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has 11 and Marquise Teague nine.

If Davis decides to score some points, the sun will shine bright on that old Kentucky home.

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The NBA pre-draft workout seems to be underway.

Kentucky is now showing off for genereal managers, with layups and three-pointers.

Oh, and defense. Kansas has gone four minutes without a score.

Kentucky’s 14-4 run late in the first half has put the Wildcats ahead, 37-21 lead.

Doron Lamb has 10 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague each nine for Kentucky.

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Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist landed on his shoulder early in the game. The Wildcats’ Terrence Jones tweaked his ankle.

The court seems to be doing more damage to the Kentucky offense than Kansas is at the moment.

This score was once tied, 7-7. Marquis Teague’s three-pointer now gives the Wildcats a 31-19 lead.

Kansas fans must be tired of Anthony Davis (three blocks, three assists, seven rebounds).

UCLA fans can commiserate. The Bruins hated an Anthony Davis, too.

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Rock block Jayhawk.

Kentucky’s Anthony Davis swatted two shots and teammate Terrence Jones blocked another. The Wildcats feed off such things.

A little 10-5 run gives Kentucky a 23-14 lead midway through the first half.

Michael Kidd-Gilchristhas seven points for Kentucky, which has out-rebounded Kansas by seven.

Kansas wearing out finger nails trying to hang on. Travis Releford’s three-pointer is followed by a television timeout, allowing Jayhawks to exhale. Kentucky leads, 23-17.

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The first meeting between Kansas and Kentucky in an NCAA tournament championship game was overly saturated with pregame hyperbole, including this nugget from Kentucky Coach John Calipari: “Goliath vs. Goliath.”

The first five minutes have lived up to the over-the-top talk. “The Fray” was both the band performing the national anthem and a description of play early on.

Kentucky received notice that there will be no easy baskets. Kansas’ 7-foot center, Jeff Withey, blocked Terence Jones’ shot on the Wildcats’ first possession. Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was sent to the floor on a layup try on the next possession.

The Wildcats, though, remain relentless. Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb scored in transition, and Lamb then sank a jumper to give Kentucky a 13-9 lead.

Pregame

In a matchup featuring two of the most storied programs in NCAA basketball history, Kentucky and Kansas are just minutes away from starting the championship game of the NCAA tournament.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6:23 p.m. PT. The game will be shown on CBS.

Kentucky (37-2) is in search of its eighth national title and has a record 112 NCAA tournament wins in its history; Kansas has 93 wins is looking for its fourth title. UCLA has the record for most titles, with 11.

Times college basketball reporter Chris Dufresne breaks it down like this:

Look for a high-scoring, free-wheeling game. Kentucky averages 77.6 points per game to Kansas’ 73.9. Kentucky’s advantage is also having the No.1-ranked defense, limiting opponents to 34.7% shooting.

The game features, arguably, the best and second-best players in the field in Kentucky center Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. Kentucky tends to overwhelm opponents with its speed and transition game, and Kansas has a bad habit of pulling out wins after falling behind. The Jayhawks trailed Ohio State by 13 points five different times Saturday before rallying to win. Falling behind Kentucky by double digits is not recommended.

Kansas has to hope Davis gets in foul trouble as he did in Kentucky’s December loss at Indiana. Kansas’ 7-foot center, Jeff Withey, must change the dynamic of the game with his shot-blocking and not allow Kentucky free passage in the paint. Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor must find his outside shooting touch — he is 0 for 20 from three-point range in the tournament — and avoid the kind of late-game brain cramps that almost cost Kansas a semifinal win over Ohio State.

--Houston Mitchell

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 Kentucky and Kansas minutes away from NCAA tournament title game


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