“It’s our fans; our fans are great to us,” Davis said. “Our fans travel a long way. We want to go out here and give them a show and give them what they want, which is a national championship.”
The ultimate bragging rights sure are a nice way to start.
Kentucky is 19-11 since the teams resumed playing in 1983-84, with the Wildcats winning four straight, including a 69-62 victory at Rupp Arena on Dec. 31 — almost the exact score as Saturday night’s win.
The Wildcats know they’re talented — there are three, maybe as many as five NBA lottery picks on the Kentucky roster — but they play without ego or cockiness, choosing instead to let their superior play overwhelm their opponents.
The Cardinals had skidded into the Big East tournament with four losses in their last six games, including back-to-back defeats to end the regular season. Pitino told his players they could either go home after the first week of the tournament or they could do something special — their choice.
The Cardinals chose the latter, ripping off four wins in four days to win the Big East tournament and ousting No. 1 seed Michigan State in the West Regional semifinals. Then came that comeback against rough-and-tumble Florida.
Those games hardened the Cardinals, and they promised they weren’t simply happy to reach the Final Four. But they sure looked it early on, getting off to a slow, sloppy start. It didn’t help that Dieng looked petrified of Davis and Siva was playing at hyperspeed, a pace Pitino has been trying to get him to tone down all year.
When they tried to go inside, Davis was less forgiving than a bouncer at a Hollywood club. When the Cardinals went outside, the Wildcats swarmed and forced them to take off-balance shots. Meanwhile, on the other end, Kentucky scored at will, repeatedly picking on Siva and Dieng.
But there’s a reason Pitino has taken three teams to the Final Four. He pulled out every trick he had, switching strategies, begging the refs for calls and finding a way — finally — to calm his team down.
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