Kansas Falls To Kentucky In National Championship Game, 67-59
NEW ORLEANS – Kansas out-scored Kentucky 32-26 in the second half while junior Thomas Robinson recorded his nation-leading 27th double-double of the season, but the Jayhawks’ 14-point halftime deficit was too much to overcome as KU fell 67-59 in the national championship game Monday night in front of a crowd of 70,913. Kansas concludes its season 32-7 overall.
Facing its largest halftime deficit of the season, 41-27, KU staged a valiant comeback in the last 20 minutes cutting its disadvantage to five points with fewer than two to play but costly turnovers prevented the Jayhawks from catching the Wildcats.
Robinson finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds in the contest. Senior Tyshawn Taylor wrapped up his four-year career collecting a team-high 19 points. For their efforts, Robinson and Taylor were both named to the 2012 NCAA Men’s Final Four All-Tournament Team. Junior Elijah Johnson joined the pair in double figure scoring adding 13 points.
Kentucky’s defense was a nuisance all night for the Jayhawks. The Wildcats, who lead the country in rebound margin and field goal percentage defense, held a 43-35 advantage on the glass and limited Kansas to 35.5 percent shooting on the night. UK finished shooting 41.1 percent from the field despite a 26.9 field goal percentage in the second half.
Down by as much as 18 in the contest, Johnson helped get the momentum back in KU’s favor during the second frame as he scored a tip-in and then added a huge dunk in his next trip down the court. Following a Kentucky turnover, Robinson would get a dunk of his own to make the score 46-36 with 13:54 to play.
Kentucky’s Doron Lamb would almost eliminate the run however, as he hit back-to-back threes. For the game, Lamb went 5-for-6 from behind the three-point arc on his way to a game-high 22 points.
At 4:51, Taylor scored five-straight points to jump start a 10-3 Kansas run. Robinson went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in that time as KU closed the gap to five points, 62-57, with 1:37 on the clock. In the final minute though, the Jayhawks committed two costly turnovers and UK went 4-for-5 at the charity stripe to prevent the comeback.
Kansas was able to limit the Wildcats leading scorer, Anthony Davis, scoreless in the first half. He would finish the game with just six points and a team-high 16 rebounds and six blocks.
In the first half, the teams went back and forth at the start of the contest as both squads settled in. Kansas was able to spread out its scoring with all five starters logging at least three points by the 10:14 mark.
At 16:24, Robinson got a layup to knot the score at 7-7 before Kentucky strung together a 10-2 run and never trailed again. Junior Jeff Withey, who had five points and seven rebounds, took the ball up strong and hit a bucket with 13:15 on the clock and then got fouled on the play. After his free throw to complete the traditional three-point play, the Jayhawks narrowed their deficit to five, 17-12, but it was as close as they would get in the half.
Midway through the opening frame, Kentucky went on another run, this time outscoring KU 11-2, while its defense held Kansas to 1-for-8 from the floor in that span.
The Jayhawks were able to gain some momentum right before the break. Robinson scored a reverse layup underneath the basket just inside the one-minute mark and UK missed its last shot attempt of the half before Taylor snuck in a layup right at the buzzer. The teams went into the lockerroom with UK holding a 41-27 lead. Two Wildcats already had double digit points- Lamb (12) and Kidd-Gilchrist (11).