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Slow start, rebounding prove costly in Kentucky’s title game loss

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Throughout the season the Kentucky Wildcats have been one of the nation’s best when it comes to hitting the offensive glass. Rebounding nearly 42% of their missed shots on the season, John Calipari’s team ranked second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. And with their superior size advantage entering Monday’s title game against UConn, the expectation of some was that Kentucky would be able to hurt the Huskies on the glass.

However that didn’t turn out to be the case and while the Wildcats’ free throw shooting (13-for-24) and the struggles of Aaron and Andrew Harrison didn’t help matters, their incredibly slow start and the fact that Kentucky couldn’t get those second-chance points were the real issues.

UConn led the game by as much as nine in the first ten minutes, and an 11-2 run would expand that lead to 15 with 5:59 remaining in the half. The guards struggled to get anything going with their ball screen action, and defensively the Wildcats had trouble containing UConn off the dribble. And that hole, which came as a result of the Huskies being the aggressors, proved to be too deep for Kentucky to climb out of.

MORE: UConn wins fourth national title | Harrison twins struggle

“Well you could say that, but the way we started the game probably cost us the game,” Calipari said when asked if Kentucky’s poor free throw shooting was the biggest issue. “Somebody said, ‘Well, why do you think you started that way?’ They’re all freshmen. They’re scared to death again. We tried to settle them down and we were rattled early. Then we settled down and started playing.

“But I have to give Connecticut credit now because the way they were aggressively picking up the ball. We told the guys, ‘If you don’t play with energy they’re going to.'”

That energy carried over to the 50/50 balls that can be so important in big games, with UConn getting the majority of those battles. And with this being the case, Kentucky was unable to take advantage of a statistical category that led to them being one of the most efficient offenses in the country this season (ranked 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency per kenpom.com).

Kentucky finished the game rebounding 27.8% of its misses, and they converted their ten offensive rebounds into just seven second-chance points. Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle, Kentucky’s two best offensive rebounders from a percentage standpoint, combined to grab three offensive rebounds on the night. Get a few more of those 50/50 balls and offensive rebounds, and maybe Kentucky makes up for the poor foul shooting and the slow start.

But that wasn’t the case, and UConn certainly deserves the credit for that. Throughout the NCAA tournament the Huskies have managed to take away the opposition’s “bread and butter,” with their Round of 64 win over Saint Joseph’s being the notable exception. Against Iowa State the Huskies neutralized Melvin Ejim, and in their Elite Eight win over Michigan State they limited the Spartans to just six points in the paint.

Clearly the plan of attack Monday night was to do whatever it took to keep Kentucky out of the lane and off the offensive glass, and UConn was able to do so for much of the night. While Kentucky hasn’t defended particularly well throughout the NCAA tournament, their offensive skill and the ability to make plays when needed carried them through to the national title game.

But when faced with an opponent that proved more than capable of taking away what they do best, the Wildcats were unable to muster enough offense to win their program’s ninth national title.

Jim Valvano’s title-winning N.C. State team to finally get White House visit

FILE - In this April 5, 1983, file photo, North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano embraces sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles moments after Charles had dunked a shot to give North Carolina State the win over Houston in the national championship game at the Final Four of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
(AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
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The N.C. State men’s basketball team never got invited to the White House after they won the 1983 National Title.

It wasn’t a tradition in those days. They spoke with President Ronald Reagan, but they did so from the confines of a television studio in Raleigh. It’s commonplace now to see title winners from all sports making their way to the Oval Office to shake hands with our nation’s leader, but back then, the funding and invitation weren’t always available.

And that never say right with the guys on that team. Since Lorenzo Charles, whose memorable dunk was the title-winning bucket, passed away in 2011, that team has had a reunion every spring, and the topic of going to the White House to celebrate the win always came up. That inspired Thurl Bailey, who was the No. 7 pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, and his friend, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, to write letters to President Obama requesting that the ’83 iteration of the Wolfpack get their White House visit.

“As definitive as a National Championship sounds, as an athlete there always seems to be unfinished business,” Bailey told N.C. State’s website. “You’re always looking for the next challenge, the next opportunity. This was it for me.  If I could get this done, it would be yet another story for me and the other members of that team to be able to pass along to our kids, grandkids and generations after that.”

Bailey’s efforts proved successful.

On Thursday, N.C. State announced that President Obama had not only received the letters, but he has issued a May 9th invitation for that 1983 team to visit him in Washington, D.C., meaning that Bailey, Dereck Whittenburg and the rest of that 1983 title-winning team will finally get to meet the Commander-in-Chief.

“The joy and the euphoria of winning a national title against all odds, as well as the pain and devastation of losing members of that family, are important parts of who I am,” Bailey said. “Contacting President Obama was one piece of our incredible journey that had eluded us for far too long.”

Los Angeles to host new college basketball doubleheader

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) A new men’s basketball doubleheader will be played in Los Angeles featuring Arizona, BYU, Gonzaga and Southern California.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the one-day event, to be played at Staples Center on Dec. 3.

The Wildcats will play the Zags and the Cougars will face the Trojans.

Tickets will go on sale May 4. Game times and television broadcast information will be announced later.

Purdue-Arizona State and Florida-Duke in Jimmy V Classic

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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NEW YORK (AP) Purdue will face Arizona State and Florida will meet Duke in the 2016 Jimmy V Classic.

The 22nd annual doubleheader will be played Dec. 6 at Madison Square Garden.

The early season event will be part of the 10th annual Jimmy V Week to help raise funds for cancer research. ESPN’s 2015 Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research raised a record-setting $3.2 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research – one million more than the previous fundraising record of $2.2 million in 2014. In nine years, Jimmy V Week has raised $13.7 million for cancer research.

No. 6 Maryland beat Connecticut 76-66 and No. 10 Virginia beat No. 14 West Virginia 70-54 in last year’s doubleheader.

Video: Bobby Knight endorses Donald Trump

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The General put his weight behind The Donald on Wednesday night.

Bobby Knight, he of three national championships with Indiana and the reputation as one of the brashest coaches of all time, endorsed Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, at a rally in Indianapolis.

You folks are taking a look at the most prepared man in history to step in as President of the United States,” Knight said. “That man right there.”

The Hall of Famer Knight won 902 games in his career at West Point, Indiana and Texas Tech. He was famously ousted by the Hoosiers in 2000 after university president Myles Brand had instituted a “no-tolerance” policy on Knight after a string of controversies that defined the coach as much as his winning.

He retired after seven seasons with Texas Tech in 2008.

 

NCAA board of governors approves anti-discrimination process for event bids

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The NCAA board of governors adopted a new rule that all sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events that will require them to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event,” it was announced Wednesday.

The decision “follows the recent actions of legislatures in several states, which have passed laws allowing residents to refuse or provide services to some people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the NCAA’s release reads.

The new criteria is expected to be fully implemented during the current bidding process, the NCAA said.

North Carolina and Mississippi recently passed laws that have rolled back protections of the LBGT community. NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently threatened to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte if the law does not change in North Carolina.

The NCAA had already barred sites that display the Confederate flag and from members hosting championship events that use “abusive and offensive” Native American imagery or nicknames.

“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” said Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University and chair of the Board of Governors, said in a statement. “So it is important that we assure that community – including our student-athletes and fans – will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”

The NCAA “considers the promotion of inclusiveness in race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity as a vital element to protecting the well-being of student-athletes, promoting diversity in hiring practices and creating a culture of fairness.”