NEW ORLEANS - The trophy was still making its way to the stage and "One Shining Moment" was in the final edits, but the music from the University of Kentucky pep band said it all.
The band belted out the state's signature song, "My Old Kentucky Home," and Big Blue Nation sang as one.
"Weep no more, my lady // Oh, weep no more today..."
Any tears in Lexington will be those of joy after the Wildcats will bring an eighth national championship back to the Commonwealth, defeating Kansas 67-59 in front of 70,913 Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"All of the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we did this for them," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who became the fifth Wildcat coach to capture a national title. "Everywhere we go on the road, the buildings are packed with blue.
The title was the first for Calipari, a 20-year college coaching veteran who arrived in Lexington three years ago after leading both UMass and Memphis to the Final Four.
"I'm glad it's done," Calipari said of the championship. "I can get back to my business of coaching basketball and getting these players to be the best that they can be. I can get on with that."
Behind Most Outstanding Player Anthony Davis – the first freshman to win the award since Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse took home the award in this same building nine years ago – the Wildcats held Kansas to 35.5 percent shooting from the field, 12 percent below their season average.
Davis was held to one field goal and six points, his fewest since Jan. 24, but contributed 16 rebounds, a championship game record-tying six blocked shots, five assists and three steals.
"I love the fact that Anthony Davis goes 1-for-10," Calipari said, "and (the media says) he's the biggest factor in the game."
Said Davis, "I knew I was struggling, so I told them, I'm going to defend and rebound, you all make all the points. That's what they did tonight."
As a team, Kentucky also set a title game record with 11 blocks.
"It's hard to score over length," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "Nobody in America can simulate length like that. It's hard to score over length. But that's who we are. We try to take it in there."
The Jayhawks' All-America forward, Thomas Robinson, started slowly but finished strong, scoring 18 points and grabbing a game-high 17 rebounds.
Kentucky charged out to an 18-point lead in the game's first 17 minutes, but as it had done throughout the tournament, Kansas had a late-game rally awaiting the Wildcats.
The Jayhawks trailed 41-27 at halftime, but despite a couple of runs, Kentucky maintained a double-digit edge for the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Tyshawn Taylor's three-point play with 4:17 remaining cut UK's lead to single digits at 59-50 for the first time since it was 28-19, and the Jayhawks kept chipping away, reminiscent of its late-game comeback against Calipari's Memphis team in the title game four years ago.
When the final media timeout was called with 3:52 remaining, Self recalled, "I called the guys back over and said, 'We were down nine with two minutes left in (2008), we've got plenty of time.'"
It would get as close at 62-57 on a pair of Robinson free throws with 1:37 left, but unlike four years ago, when Calipari's team melted at the foul line, the Wildcats converted on five of seven free throws in the final 1:11.
Kentucky guard Doron Lamb finished with a game-high 22 points, including 3-of-6 on three-pointers. Marquis Teague had 14 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 11. Taylor led KU with 19 and Elijah Johnson added 13.
Davis, who said after the game he would wait until the April 29 deadline to decide if he will enter the NBA Draft, was joined on the all-tournament team by a pair of teammates, Lamb and Kidd-Gilchrist, as well as Robinson and Taylor.
Kentucky's title gives the Southeastern Conference the reigning national champion in the three major men's sports – football (Alabama), basketball and baseball (South Carolina).
"It's a great night," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "The Big Blue Nation is extraordinary. The French Quarter may be a little crowded, late into the evening."
Where they may sing one more song for their old Kentucky home.
NCAA Final Four
(1) Kentucky vs. (2) Kansas
Monday, April 2, 2012
- The Jayhawks finished as the tournament runner-up for the sixth time (1940, ’53, 57, ’91, 2003, ’12). KU is 3-6 all-time in NCAA title games.
- KU trailed by double digits in the first half of four of its six NCAA Tournament games (Purdue, NC State, Ohio State, Kentucky), including its 18 (39-21), its largest deficit of the tournament, tonight against UK. The only game Kansas led at halftime was its second round game against Detroit.
- Kansas’ 14-point halftime deficit was its largest of the season. It previous largest halftime deficit was 12 at home against Missouri.
- Junior Thomas Robinson posted his 27th double-double of the season. It was his fifth career NCAA Tournament double-double and fourth of the 2012 tournament. His 18 rebounds were an NCAA Tournament career-best.
- Junior Elijah Johnson finished the season by scoring double figures in the final eight games.
- KU was held to a season-low 59 points. The Jayhawks were also held to 59 points by Kansas State (2/13/12).
- The Jayhawks shot less than 40 percent for the third time in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas shot less than 40 percent from the floor in six games this season, posting a 4-2 record. Both of those losses were to Kentucky.
- KU committed three of its nine turnovers in the final 3:22. Kentucky scored seven points off those three turnovers. UK scored 16 points off nine Jayhawk miscues.
- KU allowed its opponent to shoot a higher percentage from the field or just the fourth time this season.
- The Wildcats won their eighth NCAA Tournament Championship and first since 1998. Coach John Calipari is the fifth coach to guide UK to the title (Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith).
- UK’s eight national championships are second all-time behind UCLA’s 11. The Wildcats are 8-3 all-time in NCAA championship games.
- With the victory, Kentucky claimed its 38th win of the season to set an NCAA record for most wins in a season. UK coach John Calipari led Memphis to 38 wins in 2007-08, but those were later vacated. Five other teams had won 37 games (1986 Duke, 1987 UNLV, 1999 Duke, 2005 Illinois, 2008 Kansas).
- UK improved to 21-6 all-time against Kansas, including a 2-1 record in the NCAA Tournament.
- Kentucky’s 11 blocked shots established a championship game and Final Four record, surpassing the record of 10 held by two teams (2006 by Florida vs. UCLA, 2011 by Connecticut vs. Butler).
- Senior Darius Miller played in the 152nd game of his career setting a new UK record. Wayne Turner played in 151 games from 1996-99.
- Freshman Anthony Davis set the NCAA freshman record for blocked shots by swatting six KU field goal attempts to finish the season with 186. Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside previously held the record with 182 blocks in 2010.
- Davis finished the year with the fourth-most single-season blocks in NCAA history (1. David Robinson (Navy) 207 (1986); 2. Shawn James (Northeastern) 196 (2006); 3. Mickell Gladness (Alabama A&M) 188 (2007); 4. Anthony Davis (Kentucky) 186 (2012); 5. Hassan Whiteside (Marshall) 182 (2010).
- Davis six blocks against KU also tied a championship game record (Joakim Noah, Florida, 2006 vs. UCLA).
- Davis is the fourth freshman to be named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and first since Syracuse’s Carmello Anthony in 2003. Other freshmen MOP winners: Utah’s Arnie Ferrin (1944) and Louisville’s Pervis Ellison (1986).
- Davis tied his career-high with five assists. He also grabbed a UK freshman NCAA Tournament record 16 rebounds, tied for second-most by a Wildcat in NCAA Tournament play (21 by Bill Spivey vs. Kansas State, 1951). Previous record was 15 by Terrence Jones against UConn in last year’s Final Four.
- Sophomore Doron Lamb was the only UK player to score double digits in all six NCAA Tournament games this season. He has scored double figures in seven straight tournament games overall dating back to the 2011 national semifinal game against Connecticut.
- Lamb scored a postseason-high 22 points. He connected on 3-of-6 3-point attempts and is 20-of-36 (.556) behind the arc in 11 career NCAA Tournament games.
- The Wildacts’ 41.1 shooting percentage was its lowest of the tournament and just the second game of the tournament in which they shot less than 50 percent. Kentucky’s 26.9 second half shooting percentage was its worst shooting half of the season.
- The Wildcats were 17-0 this season when committing more turnovers than their opponent.
- The Wildcats went on a 16-4 run over a 6:59 stretch to turn a 23-17 lead into a 39-21 lead. UK ended the first half on an 18-10 run (10:14).
NCAA TOURNAMENT INDIVDUAL BLOCKED SHOTS RECORDS
- Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis and Kansas junior Jeff Withey each blocked an NCAA Tournament record 31 shots during this year’s championship tournament. The two also eclipsed the Final Four record for blocked shots with 11 each. Florida’s Joakim Noah held the previous record with 29 blocks during the 2006 NCAA Tournament and 11 during the 2006 Final Four.
COMBINED RECORD FOR BLOCKED SHOTS
- The two teams combined for a championship game and Final Ford record 16 blocks (UK 11, KU 5). The previous record was 12 between Arizona (7) and Duke (5) in the 2001 title game and between Connecticut (10) and Butler (1) last year. The previous Final Four record of 15 was set Saturday night in the national semifinal between Kansas (8) and Ohio State (7).
- A total of 144, 276 patrons attended this year’s Final Four; third-largest attendance in Final Four history.
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