published Monday, March 26th, 2012

Kentucky punches ticket for New Orleans

ATLANTA -- No. 1 Kentucky having easily dispatched Baylor 82-70 on its way to its second straight Final Four, the Wildcats' radio crew asked South Regional Most Outstanding Player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for an interview.

"You're the man," said color analyst Mike Pratt, the former UK All-American.

"I'm not the man," countered Kidd-Gilchrist, who totaled a combined 43 points and 15 rebounds in the Cats' weekend victories over Indiana and Baylor inside the Georgia Dome.

"I'm just a regular ol' kid."

If you want to know the biggest reason for Big Blue's 36-2 record heading into Saturday's Final Four matchup with bitter rival Louisville, Kidd-Gilchrist's attitude would be a good place to begin.

Despite predictions that the freshman from New Jersey will be the fourth player chosen in the National Basketball Association's June draft, he and fellow Wildcat freshmen sensations Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague continue to place team over self as UK attempts to win the school's first national title in 14 years and its eighth overall.

"It's a great feeling to be part of something special and go to the Final Four," said Davis, who scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds blocked six shots and scared the heck out of more than 20,000 Big Blue fans among the crowd of 24,035 when he grabbed his knee after a collision with Baylor big man Perry Jones III early in the second half.

"It's everyone's college dream."

Added Teague, "We had fun this entire game. We enjoyed ourselves and came out victorious."

It is tough not to enjoy the passion and purpose with which this UK team plays. Down 10-5 early to Baylor, the Cats went on a 16-0 run, then roared to halftime with a 42-22 lead.

"There are a lot of good teams in this tournament," said CBS analyst Clark Kellogg over the weekend. "But Kentucky is an elite team defensively. I still think they're just a little bit above everybody else."

And Kellogg is an alum of Ohio State, which joins UK in the Final Four, along with Louisville -- which UK will play Saturday at 6 p.m. in the Final Four -- and Kansas.

But perhaps it's better to let Baylor guard Brady Heslip -- who torched Colorado for 27 points on nine 3-pointers a week ago _ explain what it was like to be held to four points and two shot attempts by Big Blue.

"That's a great team," he said. "They're really talented and the came to play today in the first half. We just weren't able to overcome that deficit."

Indeed, despite committing 32 fouls, dragging the game out for nearly two and a half hours and actually outrebounding UK 34-32, Baylor never got closer than 11. The Bears became the fourth Wildcat foe in four NCAA tourney games to lose by double-figures.

"I think in coaching you get done playing a team, and the first thing you think is are they what you thought," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "This team's actually better than I tought. We haven't played a better team than them all year."

Yet if you think a 36-2 record and return trip to the Final Four is enough for UK, think again.

Said Kidd-Gilchrist, sounding anything but a regular ol' kid, "We haven't achieved anything, I expected [to make the Final Four]. Our goal is to win the national championship."

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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