No. 1 seed University of Kentucky and second-seeded University of Kansas will meet tomorrow to decide the national men’s college basketball championship.
Kansas (32-6) rallied from a 13-point deficit to defeat No. 2 seed Ohio State 64-62 in the final minutes of their game and Kentucky defeated rival and fourth-seeded Louisville 69-61 to reach the National Collegiate Athletic Association final at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Kansas took a 2-0 lead in the opening minute, then trailed Ohio State through most of the game. The Jayhawks got their largest lead of the game, 62-59, on Elijah Johnson’s layup with one minute, five seconds left to play.
William Buford dunked to bring the Buckeyes (31-8) within a point at 62-61 with nine seconds remaining. Two seconds later, Tyshawn Taylor sunk two free throws, restoring Kansas’ three- point lead 64-61.
With two seconds left in the game, Aaron Craft was fouled. He hit the first free throw to narrow the gap to 64-62. In his attempt to grab the rebound when his second shot hit the rim, Craft rushed the ball and stepped over the foul line early, causing a turnover and giving Kansas the victory.
“It’s a dream for these kids to play on the biggest stage for college basketball and to play the No. 1 team,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in a televised press conference.
The Jayhawks fought back from 13-point deficits five times in the first half. They ended the half behind 34-25.
“We were awful,” Self said. “There was no energy, we were tight. That was not who we were in the first half. We were much more aggressive in the second half.”
Thomas Robinson had 19 points and Travis Releford added 15 for Kansas, which is seeking its fourth NCAA title.
“It feels great,” said Releford who hit four free throws in the final three minutes. “We’ve been in those situations before throughout the season, where we played from behind, played grind-it-out games. We still got another goal. We can’t be too excited about this win.”
Buford led the Buckeyes with 19 points and Jared Sullinger had 13, while Craft had 11.
Kentucky is going to its first championship game since winning its seventh NCAA title in 1998.
‘Closer to Dream’
“We’re one game closer to our dream and our goals,” Kentucky’s Anthony Davis said in a televised interview after he scored a game-high 18 points and 14 rebounds. “We’ve got to come out Monday night and perform.”
The Wildcats (37-2) had a 13-point lead in the second half before the Cardinals chipped away at their advantage. Back-to- back baskets by Russ Smith started Louisville (30-10) on a 15-3 run that tied the game at 49-49 on Peyton Siva’s 3-pointer with nine minutes, 13 seconds left in the game.
Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored a layup and dunked within a 40-second span as Kentucky started to pull away a minute later.
Siva led the Cardinals with 11 points.
“They never stopped playing,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of the in-state rival. “They got up into our bodies, created turnovers and gave themselves a chance to win.”
Kentucky shot 57 percent from the field while Louisville was held to 35 percent.
“It took so much energy to get us back in the game,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino told reporters. “Our conditioning was awesome the whole year. The difference was that Anthony Davis is the best player in the year.”
Freshman Davis was named the winner of the Wooden Award as the nation’s top player yesterday, one day after being tagged as the Associated Press player of the year. The Wooden Award is voted on by members of the national college basketball media.
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