Kentucky holds off Kansas, is crowned national champion

NEW ORLEANS – The best team in the country doesn’t always win the NCAA tournament.

You can’t say that about 2012.

Kentucky took over the No. 1 spot in the polls back in the first month of the season, and despite a hiccup or two, the Wildcats were widely considered the best team in the country for much of the year. They proved it for the final time on Monday night, knocking off Kansas in the national championship game, 67-59.

It was head coach John Calipari’s first title. For Kentucky, it was the Wildcats’ eighth national championship in program history.

The Wildcats controlled much of the game, leading by double-digits for most of the final 27 minutes. Kansas made a run – as the Jayhawks have done so often in the NCAA tournament – late in the second half, getting the lead down to five with 1:37 remaining on two Thomas Robinson free throws. Kentucky was too much, though.

Anthony Davis responded with a free throw of his own, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blocked a layup attempt by Tyshawn Taylor at the other end. Kansas would not get closer than six the rest of the game.

There would be no Mario Chalmers magic for Bill Self this time around, as Kentucky knocked down enough free throws late in the game to preserve the lead.

Doron Lamb lead the way for Kentucky with 21 points, but Davis’ 15 points, six blocks and five assists also had a major impact. Marquis Teague had 14 points for the Wildcats. Robinson struggled early for Kansas, but finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Taylor came alive in the second half, finishing with 19 points.

Kentucky’s defense was the story. The Wildcats blocked 11 shots, setting a championship game team record, while Davis’ six blocks tied the individual record with Joakim Noah in 2006.

The monkey is finally off Calipari’s back. Kentucky is the national champion.

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