This had been billed as a glamorous matchup between the two all-time winningest programs in college basketball and the two players — Davis and Robinson — who had been vying for national player of the year honors all season.
Kentucky had already beaten Kansas (32-7) by 10 points on Nov. 15. Robinson in particular was eager for “payback” after admittedly being physically dominated by the Wildcats. Physicality defined much of the first half Monday, even though the Jayhawks rarely turned much of the contact into points.
There was Robinson and Terrence Jones jostling in the paint as Robinson tried to establish deep position. On the other end, Jones knocked Robinson back with a bump and threw down an early dunk.
Moments later, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who went to the ground earlier in the game on a hard foul, barreled to the basket and flipped the ball in before falling backward and appearing to hit his head on the court.
The Wildcats blocked four shots in the game’s first nine minutes and finished with 11, which set the NCAA title game record. One of the blocks was made by Davis, who missed all four of his field goal attempts in the half but contributed nine rebounds and four assists.
Self called a timeout after Teague, who had been hesitant to shoot while open three weeks ago, sank a three-pointer to give the Wildcats a 12-point lead with 7:17 to play.
Doron Lamb and senior Darius Miller added two more three-pointers, and before Kansas knew it, the Jayhawks found themselves in a comfortable position: trailing by double digits.
But the opponent Monday wasn’t Ohio State, which squandered a 13-point first-half lead in Saturday’s national semifinals. And Kansas’s usual emotional leader, Robinson, was a non-factor most of the first half, making just two of his first 10 field goal attempts.
Now that he finally secured the national title, Calipari must look ahead to life without a number of players who likely will be playing in the NBA in the near future.
“There are six first-rounders on this team,” Calipari said. “That’s why I have to go recruiting on Friday.”