It was a good day of basketball at the Final Four yesterday, as Louisville made Kentucky sweat and Kansas and Ohio State went down to the final seconds before we finally had all our All-Blue, UK-KU national championship game set. TheSportsNotebook looks back on both games….
Kentucky 69 Louisville 61: This one’s got to be frustrating for Louisville fans, because in spite of shooting just 35 percent from the floor to Kentucky’s 57 percent, they teams were still tied late in the second half. Louisville won the rebounding battle, but they just made a lot of mistakes. The flip side of this equation is that even though a lot of errors were officially unforced, the pressure a team like Kentucky puts on an opponent to be perfect creates an environment for missed dunks and opportunities not cashed in. And in the end, no one had any answers for Anthony Davis. With a dazzling array of post moves, Davis scored 18 points, pulled in 14 rebounds and blocked five shots, as he virtually willed his team onto the Monday night stage.
Kansas 64 Ohio State 62: This was about as bad of a good game you’ll ever see. Or should I say about as good of a bad game you’ll ever see? Coaches won’t break out tapes of this one to show at clinics, but the second half was tense and taut all the way through. Kansas continues to have an almost team-of-destiny look. There’s no overarching storyline—it was just four years ago they won a national title, there’s no special person or cause they’ve dedicated the season to—they just keep winning games they have no business pulling out. As I watched Kansas fling ill-advised passes around the floor—even during their second-half comeback, I recall thinking that it would be tough for them to look worse in a game against Ohio State if the two schools were playing football.
In yesterday’s game preview, two things were noted about each team—for Ohio State, the need for DeShaun Thomas to continue his strong offensive pay. He ended up with just nine points. For Kansas, it was that they were too reliant on just Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While those two had good games, Kansas got the big contributions from the role players they needed—Travis Releford scored 15 and was at the center of countless key moments in the comeback, and Elijah Johnson had 13 points and 10 rebounds, including an impossible over-the-shoulder shot on a fastbreak late in the game that seemed a microcosm of his team’s NCAA run—the shot had no business being taken, Bill Self surely cringed, but it went in. And Kansas got the berth opposite Kentucky on Monday night.