Everyone knew Kentucky was big, strong, deep, experienced and dedicated to winning the national college basketball championshio.
In defeating an enthusiatic young Duke team, 94-83, in Monday night's final, Kentucky used all of those assets. But it also relied on something it seldom has had to fall back on this season: individual talent.
Jack Givens and Rick Robey diminated the game form the beginning. Givens had a career-high 41 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The 6-foot-4 senior forward, the tournament's most valuable player, also made 18 of 27 shots
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Robey, a 6-10 senior, made eight of 11 shots and scored 20 points with 11 rebounds and played a superb defensive fgame, first against Eugene Banks, then Mike Gminisk.
Duke was certainly the team of the future with a starting-lineup of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, but Kentucky was the class of the field this year in every way. The Wildcats record was 30-2, with losses only to Alabama and LSU, both on the road.
The Wildcats are national champions for perhaps one reason more than any other. They were able to do whatever necessary to win. They played Florida State one way in the first round and Michigan Syate another in the Mideast Regional final.
In the national semifinals against Arkanass Saturday, they methodically wore down the Rozorbacks. Against Duke, they beat the Blue Devils at their own game, the wide-open, score-any-way-you-can approach.
Kentucky had a way to stop Banks, Jim Spanarkel and Gminski, but Duke's biggest problems were on defense, and the Blue Devils could not make the adjustments necessary to stop Givens or Robey.
Duke was supposed to be the exciting team with the lob passes and slam dunks. But it was Kentuky's James Lee who ended the game with a Checkerdome-shaking slam, and it was Robey who hook-danked in an offensive rebound in perhaps the most inpressive play of the title game.
It was apparent early Kentucky held the trump cards on defense. The Wildcats started man to man and when they got into foul trouble went to a 1-3-1 zone. When they needed a lift defensively, they went back to man to man. Both defenses were effective.
Duke is not deep in good players. Because of that and their youth, the Blue Devils are a zone-defense team. And what first appeared to be an incredible scoring display by Givens actually was experienced Kentuky's ability to take advantage of Duke's zone.
Blue Devils were so concerned with keeping the ball away from the basket that they kept their far out and their big men packed in low. That left open the area around the free-throw line.
Givens would go to the open spot, take a pass, turn to the basket and shoot. He scored Kentucky's last 16 points of th e first half, most from that area.
"I don't want to criticize Bill (Duke Coach Bill Foster) because he did not a great job with those kids this year," another school's coach said, "but you can't let one guy get 41 points on you the way Givens did. Once it was obvious he was their man, I would have found some way to keep the ball away from him. But these Duke kids are young. They'll learn, and they'll be back."
Kentucky was ahead, 29-28, with six minutes to play when Givens opened up to give the Wildcats a 45-38 half-time lead.
He scored on an uncontested 10-fotter, an uncontested five-footer, two free throws after beign fouled going for a rebound, a 15-footer under a little pressure, an offensive rebound an uncontested seven-footer, 16-footer with a little pressure and, finally, on two free throws after drawing a charging foul.
A 17-4 spurt gave Kentucky a 66-50 lead with 12:42 to play in the second half.
Kenny Dennard had brought Duke to 49-46 on a tap-in, but then Trumnan Claytor made in 17-foot jump shot for Kentucky.
After Banks missed two free throws. Foster leaped off the bench complaining Clator had travrled. Officials Jim Bain of the Big Ten Conference called Foster for a two-shot technical foul.
Kyle Macy made both shots, then fed Robey for a dunk and Duke was in serious trouble. The Wildcats made their next four shots and when they finally did miss, Robey rebounded and missed and Givens rebounded and scored and Kentucky was ahead by 16.
The final score was as close as it was only because Duke never quit and Kentucky missed three of its last four free throws, two the first of one and ones.
Still, experience, as usual, beat youth. In the last four years Kentucky has been national runner-up, NIT champion and now national champion.
But all the Blue Devils' starters will be back and now they, with Michigan State, UCLA and Notre Dame, look to be the class of Division 1 next season.
Kentucky, meanwhile, needs a big recruiting year since it is losing Robey, Givens, Lee and Mike Phillips. All indications are, however, that Coach Joe B. Hall is bringingin the players he needs to keep Kentucky near the top