Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Kentucky's simply overwhelming

ATLANTA — Kentucky could have cut the nets down at halftime.

Actually, the Wildcats probably would have been good with skipping the ceremony altogether. A South Region title is fine, but what matters to this bunch is breaking out the scissors in the Big Easy.

Top-seeded Kentucky advanced to the Final Four for the second year in a row with an 82-70 blitzing of Baylor on Sunday, setting up a Bluegrass showdown with rival Louisville in the national semifinals Saturday at New Orleans.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 19, Anthony Davis added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Terrence Jones dazzled in all the overlooked areas to lead the Wildcats (36-2). For all the hoopla sure to surround the next game, Kentucky won't consider the season a success unless it wins two more games, culminating in a national title.

"I'm not satisfied yet," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

The Bears (30-8) appeared to be no match for coach John Calipari's latest group of blue-chip freshmen. Kentucky took control with an early 16-0 run and led by 20 at halftime.

"This team is better than I thought," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "This is the best team we faced all year … probably in a couple of years."

The Wildcats beat Louisville 69-62 on New Year's Eve, but now they'll meet with the highest stakes ever. Kidd-Gilchrist shrugged when someone asked about playing the Cardinals.

"I'm just worried about us," he said. "That's it. I don't worry about anybody else."

It will be the fourth meeting in the Final Four of teams from the same state, the first since Ohio State-Cincinnati in 1962.

Calipari, in his third season at Kentucky, keeps recruiting the best high school players, molds them into a top team then sends most of them to the NBA.

Then he starts the whole process over again.

"There are some opinions that will never change," Calipari said.

"All I'm trying to do is coach these young people. I'm trying to do the best job for these kids and their families."

Two years ago, John Wall led Kentucky to the region final. Last season, Brandon Knight helped guide the Wildcats to the Final Four. Now, with those two in the NBA, Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis have a shot at doing what they failed to do: bringing Kentucky its first national title since 1998.

But Calipari's getting plenty of contributions from those who hung around. Jones, a sophomore forward who passed up the draft, scored one in the opening half, but his fingerprints were all over Kentucky's performance: nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals, most in the first 10 minutes.

"I was just trying to be aggressive early," Jones said. "That allowed me to get in great position for rebounds and to lead the fast break."

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