Kentucky dumps Baylor to advance to Final Four again

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ATLANTA — Kentucky is taking its highlight show back to the Big Easy.

With an NBA-like display from a young team filled with future pros, top-seeded Wildcats advanced to the Final Four for the second year in a row with a 82-70 blitzing of Baylor in the South Regional final on Sunday.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 19 points, Anthony Davis added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Terrence Jones dazzled in all the overlooked areas, leading the Wildcats (36-2) to a Bluegrass showdown with rival Louisville in the national semifinals next Saturday at New Orleans.

For all the hoopla sure to surround that game in the basketball-crazed state, Kentucky won’t consider the season a success unless it wins two more games — culminating in a national title.

“This team is playing for you and playing for each other,” coach John Calipari told the predominantly blue-clad crowd when it was over. “Let’s see if we can keep this thing rolling a bit.”

This group sure has the look of a champion, shaking off an early blow by the Bears (30-8) — a very good team with a daring fashion sense that was simply no match for Calipari’s latest group of Fab Freshmen. Kentucky took control with an early 16-0 run and led by 20 at halftime.

They might as well have cut down the nets right then.

“This team is better than I thought,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “This is the best team we faced all year, and probably in a couple of years.”

Two years ago, Baylor lost to eventual national champion Duke in another regional final.

“Duke was a good team,” Drew said, “but Kentucky is better.”

The Wildcats beat Louisville 69-62 on New Year’s Eve, but now they’ll meet with the highest stakes ever. Kidd-Gilchrist shrugged when someone asked about playing the Cardinals.

“I’m just worried about us,” he said. “That’s it. I don’t worry about anybody else.”

Calipari, in his third season at Kentucky, just keeps recruiting the best high school players in the land, molds them into a top team, then sends most of ‘em on to the NBA before they’ve barely had time to find their way to class.

Then he starts the whole process over again.

Two years ago, John Wall led Kentucky to the regional final. Last season, Brandon Knight helped guide the Wildcats to the Final Four. Now, with those guys in the NBA and Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis stopping off for what will likely be their only season in Lexington, Big Blue has a shot at what those last two teams failed to do — bringing Kentucky its first national title since 1998.

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