Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s two buckets changed the game

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NEW ORLEANS – The shot that everyone is going to be talking about after Kentucky’s 69-61 win over Louisville in the Final Four on Saturday night is the three that Darius Miller hit with 5:04 left on the clock.

That shot was huge. It put Kentucky up 58-51 and turned all of the momentum that Louisville had built with a 15-3 run to tie the game back in Kentucky’s favor. We should expect these things from Miller at this point.

But the buckets that everyone is going to overlook came from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist just four minutes earlier.

The freshman was playing as poorly as he had all season long. He couldn’t find a rhythm offensively because he was saddled with foul trouble, turning the ball over four times at that point and managing just a single point, which came as he went 1-4 from the free throw line on the previous two possessions. And then, after Anthony Davis had grabbed an offensive rebound, he found Kidd-Gilchrist all alone under the basket for a layup. On Kentucky’s next possession, Kidd-Gilchrist spun around a Louisville defender and threw down a powerful two-handed dunk in the lane.

Kentucky was up four and on the way to a game-winning, 11-2 run.

“I’m the energy guy on this team,” he said after the game. “I have a big role. It feels good to get the win.”

He plays more than just “a big role”. There’s an argument to be made that he was the difference-maker against Louisville. After playing so terribly early in the game, he came alive down the stretch, helping to finish off the Cardinals with an alley-oop to Davis and two dunks as Louisville tried to press Kentucky and get back into the game.

If Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t wake up late in the game, Louisville may have finished off the comeback.

“I know he was struggling a bit with foul trouble,” Doron Lamb said after the game. “But I know Mike’s a great player. I know that he’s going to come up in the game and make big plays. And that’s what he did in the second half.”

It’s something that we should have come to expect from him at this point.

“I love the bright lights,” he said.