He refused to blame his poor performance on the venue, or the fact that he played 40 minutes against one of the best defensive teams in the country.
“I can’t explain it,” Knight said.
He trudged off the floor after his meaningless 3-pointer at the horn, and it’s hardly a given he’ll get another chance to win a national championship. His sometimes spectacular play had some comparing him to predecessor John Wall, who left for the NBA after just one season.
Though Knight can’t match Wall for quickness, he’s a better shooter and his guts earned him the respect of opposing coaches. UConn’s Jim Calhoun called him the best freshman in the country on Friday, even though the Huskies’ defense didn’t let him look like it in front of the largest crowd in Final Four history.
Knight refused to discuss his future after the game. The present was too painful.
The cohesion that led the Wildcats to 10 straight wins evaporated as they reverted to the one-on-one play that plagued them through a sometimes bumpy regular season. Shots clanged off the rim at an alarming rate, if they hit the rim at all. During one foray to the basket, Miller drew contact and then flung the ball over the backboard.
Kentucky collected itself in the second half, erasing a 10-point deficit to briefly take the lead, then tying it at 48 on a jumper by Doron Lamb with 7:17 to go.
The Wildcats wouldn’t make another basket for more than 5 minutes, missing seven straight shots, including four by Knight. Kentucky ended up shooting 34 percent from the field, numbers that were similar to last year’s loss to West Virginia in the regional finals.
“It’s a tough deal,” Calipari said.
(This version CORRECTS Kentucky trailed by two instead of three during next to last possession.) Corrects to Kentucky trailing by two instead of three in 3rd graf.)