- Associated Press - Friday, April 1, 2011

HOUSTON (AP) - Brandon Knight can run through the list of Kentucky’s issues over the winter as easily as the straight-A student can rip through an exam.

Missed shots, inexperience and untimely defensive lapses _ all valid reasons why the Wildcats found themselves wobbling through the regular season collecting nearly as many losses (eight) as coach John Calipari’s previous three teams combined (nine).

True enough. Yet the candid point guard says Kentucky’s biggest problem _ beyond a freshman-laden squad trying to live up to expectations _ was ego.

As in, too much of it.

“At the beginning we weren’t as good as we thought we were,” he said.

The defeats piled up, yet Calipari didn’t panic even as he threw around phrases such as “crisis mode.” He remained convinced Kentucky would grow up, even if it took longer than he anticipated.

Calipari insisted that all that mattered was the postseason. If the Wildcats dumped the selfishness and focused on something other than the numbers next to their name in the box score, he promised them they’d get another shot at the teams that handled them earlier in the year.

Calipari was right.

Now the once dysfunctional group has been dubbed “The Redeem Team” for its ability to exact revenge.

Kentucky has avenged six of its eight defeats this season and will get a chance at a seventh on Saturday when the Wildcats (29-8) play Connecticut (30-9) in the Final Four.

The Huskies whipped Kentucky 84-67 in the finals of the Maui Invitational a day before Thanksgiving.

Back then, UConn was considered a middle-of-the-pack Big East team and Walker a role player not expected to become one of the country’s top scorers. The Huskies dispatched both assumptions in 40 dominating minutes.

“I think we underestimated them and didn’t play hard,” Kentucky center Josh Harrellson said.

It certainly looked at way as the Huskies thrashed Kentucky while handing Calipari his worst loss in four years. Playing their fourth game in six days, the Wildcats shot just 37 percent and looked helpless as Walker went off for 29 points.

“He killed us,” said Kentucky guard DeAndre Liggins, who served as the primary defender on Walker.

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