Kansas Jayhawks survive Ohio State, but can they knock off Kentucky?
By Trevor Hass - Syracuse University '15 - 80 views
Lenn Robbins / New York Post
Anthony Davis will look to cap off a remarkable season with a win over Kansas Monday night
Well, Kansas did it again.
The Jayhawks were outplayed for about 37 minutes against Ohio State and were able to claw back and find a way to win.
A steal and breakaway layup with 0.02 seconds left in the first half cut the Kansas deficit to 34-25 heading into the break. The Jayhawks then went on a 13-4 run to tie the game at 38. Fueled by Thomas Robinson’s 19 points and eight rebounds, Bill Self’s team had yet another second-half comeback.“It’s just been our thing all year, coming back,” Robinson told ESPN.com. “I don’t like doing it, but for some reason my team is pretty good when we’re down.”
In their last two wins, the Jayhawks have held North Carolina and Ohio State to a combined 12 percent shooting in the final two minutes and outscored them 25-8, according to ESPN.com.
These wins have left doubters across the country in disbelief, thinking there’s no way they can do it again … and then wow, they just did it again.
Now the Jayhawks have a showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats in the national championship game at 9:23 ET Monday night. The question (yep, you got it): Can they do it again?
In case you live on Saturn, don’t own a television, or prefer watching curling or bobsledding, Kentucky is pretty good this year. OK, so they’re really good.
Kentucky comes into the game against Kansas with a 37-2 record. After beating Louisville 69-61 in the Bluegrass Battle, the Wildcats are hungry for their eighth championship.
Louisville was able to hang around and give Kentucky all it could handle. In fact, the game was tied at 49 with 9:12 remaining.
Then Kentucky’s defense kicked in. Anthony Davis showed why he was named the AP Player of the Year. The star freshman had 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks and put an end to Louisville’s rhythm in the second half. He became the first player since Kansas superstar (and current Jayhawk assistant coach) Danny Manning to post 15+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ blocks in a Final Four game.
Davis’ play was a microcosm of that of his team, as it has been all season. The Wildcats shot 57 percent from the floor and held Louisville to 35 percent.
“Any time you don’t know whether a team is better offensively or defensively, you know you’ve got a great basketball team,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said on ESPN.com. “And Anthony Davis is incredible.”
For much of the game, offensive rebounding essentially kept the Cardinals alive. Louisville had a 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass and second-chance points were the Cards’ bread and butter.
When Kentucky plays Kansas Monday, it’ll need to patch up this miniscule hole in order to claim the national title. Kansas outrebounded Ohio State 41 to 30. Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson grabbed eight rebounds apiece, and are both excellent defensive players as well.
One marquee matchup in this one will be point guards Kentucky’s Marquis Teague vs. Kansas’s Tyshawn Taylor. Though Taylor is a shocking 0 for 20 from downtown during the tournament, he had nine assists last night and can heat up at any moment.
Another key matchup is Kansas seven-footer Jeff Withey, who’s been playing better lately, against Anthony Davis. A volleyball spiker as a kid growing up in San Diego, Cal., Withey blocked an impressive seven shots against OSU. Withey will look to contain Davis in a matchup of perhaps the two best shot blockers in the country.
Ultimately, Kentucky will have too much for Kansas to handle. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got into foul trouble against Louisville and will be motivated and in the zone coming into this one. Expect a big game from him. Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones are all elite scorers.
Kansas may make yet another second-half push, but it won’t be enough. Kentucky will win its first national championship since 1998 and cut down the nets in the Superdome in New Orleans.
Prediction: 83-67 Kentucky, with Anthony Davis winning the MVP (15 points, eight rebounds, four blocks).