Davis shows value, dominance even on poor shooting night

by | CBSSports.com College Basketball Insider
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NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis walked into the Kentucky locker room at halftime having missed all four of his field-goal attempts, yet unfazed by what wound up being the worst offensive performance of his 40-game college career. He understood his worth to this Wildcats team from the outset, rarely taking ill-advised shots and instead focusing on his impact on the defensive end of the floor.

This, though, was his signature moment and embodied what he has been all about since his arrival in Lexington. In what will likely be his final collegiate contest, Davis was unquestionably the most dominant player on the floor for the first 20 minutes.

Without scoring a single point.

"It didn't matter to me," Kentucky's endlessly long and talented 6-foot-10 freshman said moments after winning the national title. "I told the guys, 'I'll defend and rebound. You score the points.'"

We've been blessed in recent years with the length and skill of Kevin Durant, the power and athleticism of Blake Griffin and the relentlessness of Tyler Hansbrough. But we've never, ever seen anyone like Davis. He's a game-changer -- and that's exactly what he did in the minutes during the half of the game despite failing to put the ball in the basket.

There he was, instilling fear into every single player on the Kansas team -- including the normally fearless Thomas Robinson. Jeff Withey was intimidated each time he had the ball in his hands near the basket, tossing it up as quickly as possible. Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor felt the wrath of The 'Brow each time they drove into the paint. Even Robinson was hearing footsteps and was visibly rattled by the presence of Davis.

"It was like he was guarding two people at once," Withey said.

Or, at times, the entire Kansas team.

Davis finished with just a single field goal in Kentucky's 67-59 win over Kansas. He was 1-of-10 in the game, but the one make was critical, a 16-foot jumper from the left baseline with 5:13 remaining in the game that extended the Wildcats lead to 59-44.

He never got rattled, didn't make any poor decisions despite failing to break into the scoring column until nearly five minutes into the second half when he made one of two free throws. This kid, who embodies what a superstar should be all about, just did what he's done all season long: He rebounded the ball, blocked and altered shots and played hard on each and every possession.

"He didn't try and score," said former Georgetown coach John Thompson, who coached a pretty darn good big man back in the day named Patrick Ewing. "He just defended. I call that intelligence."

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The last big man to bestow this kind of defensive dominance may have, in fact, been Ewing.

"I don't like to compare players from different eras," Thompson continued. "But this guy is so impressive. He's so agile and unselfish."

We can talk about this team all day, the one that may wind up boasting seven NBA players, but there's no way Kentucky cuts down the nets on Monday night in New Orleans without Davis. Kentucky is ranked No. 1 in the country in defensive efficiency -- and it's primarily due to Davis and his ability to alter the entire game.

Johnson had a shot to cut it to a 3-point game with 23 seconds left and appeared to have an uncontested shot from beyond the arc. That's when A.D. came out of nowhere, outstretched his frame and confused Johnson enough to make him come down to the floor with the basketball in his hands. There was a time earlier in the contest when the 7-foot Withey got swatted -- without Davis' feet ever leaving the floor.

"I've never, ever had that happen to me," Withey admitted.

Davis walked onto the court for the second half with his team in front, 41-27. He had the famed goose-egg, but that was irrelevant. He knew he'd impacted the game -- with nine rebounds, three blocks and four assists before the break.

"He's a freak athlete who dominated the first half -- and even the game -- without scoring," Taylor said. "He's incredible."

Davis wound up with just six points when the final buzzer sounded, triggering a celebration on the court at the Superdome, but he also hauled down 16 rebounds and also tied a championship game record with six blocks.

There have been some dominating defensive performances -- and this has to go down there with the best of them. This had to make Ewing and guys like Bill Russell proud.

Davis said he will take some time before making his decision whether to leave for the NBA. In fact, he'll let the college deadline pass on April 10 and decide prior to the NBA's April 29 date. But let's be honest: We've seen the last of A.D. in the college ranks.

Without him, John Calipari doesn't get his first national title. Without him, Big Blue Nation is waiting yet another season to re-establish its dominance. Without him, this team doesn't boast the unselfishness that make it special.

It wasn't all that long ago that Davis was an anonymous 6-foot-3 guard out of Chicago. In fact, just one high-major program, Syracuse, had offered him a scholarship prior to the all-important July recruiting period following his junior season. But Davis came out of nowhere to vault to the top of the rankings.

But those aren't the numbers that matter to Davis.

"I just want to win," Davis said. "I don't care about scoring points."

He didn't need to score a single point -- and yet still took home a national championship and Most Outstanding Player honors.

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