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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kentucky holds on for NCAA crown

NEW ORLEANS –Doron Lamb scored 22 points, and Kentucky won its eighth national championship, holding off Kansas for a 67-59 victory Monday night.

The Wildcats (38-2) led by as many as 18 points in the first half and were still up 15 with 5:13 to play. Kansas (32-7), a team which rallied from several big deficits this season, was able to get as close as 62-57 with 1:37 to play.

Kentucky closed the game by making five of seven free throws over the final 1:11 and that set off quite a celebration in the Superdome.

Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, only the second freshmen to be selected national player of the year, had six points on 1-of-10 shooting but finished with 16 rebounds and tied the championship-game record with six blocks.

Tyshawn Taylor had 19 points for the Jayhawks, and All-America Thomas Robinson had 18 on 6-of-17 shooting and had 17 rebounds.Kentucky gained its eighth national championship, second only to UCLA’s 11, and its first since 1998. That year the Wildcats set the record for largest halftime deficit overcome, rallying from a 41-31 deficit to beat Utah 78-69.

The win gave Kentucky 38 this season, tying Memphis in 2008 for the record.

That team was coached by current Wildcats coach John Calipari and its season ended in the national championship game with an overtime loss to Kansas.

These teams met on Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden, a 75-65 Kentucky victory that was tied 28-28 at halftime.

Lamb scored 12 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 11 to lead Kentucky to a 41-27 lead at halftime.

The Wildcats had one of the biggest halftime leads in title game history. North Carolina had a 21-point lead over Michigan State in 2009.

The Wildcats shot 53.3 percent from the field (16 of 30), while holding the Jayhawks to 33.3 percent shooting (11 of 33).

Kentucky led the nation this season in field goal percentage defense (37.4).

The matchup of the two winningest programs in NCAA history started close, but Kentucky pulled away in a hurry.

The Wildcats took the lead for good at 9-7 on a follow shot by Kidd-Gilchrist.

After a basket by Tayshawn Taylor of Kansas, Kentucky went on a 6-0 run that was capped by two free throws by Lamb with 13:39 to play.

Kansas couldn’t get a basket inside as the Wildcats blocked five shots, three by 6-foot-10 freshman Anthony Davis, who entered the game leading the nation with 180.

The lead reached 18 points twice, the second time at 41-23 with 1:04 left on a drive by Kidd-Gilchrist.

Baskets by Robinson and Taylor in the final minute allowed Kansas to close the deficit to 41-27.

Robinson and Taylor both had eight points for the Jayhawks, but Robinson got his on 3-for-11 shooting.