One of the most-anticipated games in the history of the Kentucky/Louisville series provided the expected result in the end.
Behind 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots from Anthony Davis, No. 1 seed Kentucky (37-2) advanced to Monday’s national title game with a 69-61 win over No. 4 seed Louisville.
Peyton Siva led the Cardinals (30-10) with 11 points and Chane Behanan added ten points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats were able to pull away down the stretch.
Kentucky led by as many as 13 points early in the second half and had the look of a team poised to blow things open.
But Louisville refused to go away, and with Siva and Gorgui Dieng playing better the Cardinals were able to tie the game at 49 with 9:13 remaining.
Dieng finished with seven points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and as a team Louisville grabbed 16 offensive rebounds.
However Kentucky would answer with an 11-2 run, taking a 60-51 lead on a pair of Darius Miller free throws with 4:29 to go.
Kentucky made up for the rebounding issues by shooting 58% from the field, which is the highest a Louisville opponent has shot from the field this season.
The biggest problem for Louisville however was their offensive work in the paint, as they missed 16 dunks and layups against Kentucky. Make enough of those and there’s a chance that it’s Louisville advancing.
But some credit for that should go to the Kentucky defense, as they limited the Cardinals to 35% shooting.
“You have to either throw it out and get an easy shot or you have to finish,” said Pitino when asked about how to deal with a shot-blocker like Davis. “We didn’t finish inside. We kept missing inside.”
With Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to contend with, it comes as no surprise that simple shots are so difficult to make against Kentucky.
Kentucky won the regular season meeting 69-62 in Lexington on New Year’s Eve, and they set a school record for wins in a single season with their win on Saturday night.