Kentucky's defense comes up big against Louisville

JIM O'CONNELL AP Basketball Writer Published:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The highlight packages will be full of Anthony Davis' one-hand jam off an alley-oop pass and a couple of his hook shots -- including one with his non-shooting hand -- but what got Kentucky to its 11th national championship game was defense.

A lot of defense.

The Wildcats didn't break the 80-point mark as they did in their first four NCAA tournament games -- the first team to do that since Kentucky won its last title in 1998 -- but they stopped Louisville whenever they had to in their 69-61 victory Saturday night.

Kentucky (37-2) held the Cardinals to 34.8 percent shooting (24 for 69), well below their season mark of 42.5, but even more importantly, it was below the 37.5 percent the Wildcats allowed all season -- a mark that led the nation.

"It's great stuff," said Kentucky coach John Calipari. "I'm proud of this team. They're coming together. They've taken on shots and runs like Louisville did today, and they've held their own, so I'm proud of them."

And it was Davis, the 6-foot-10 freshman who was the national Player of the Year, leading the way with five of Kentucky's seven blocked shots while altering several others as he did all season in being named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

The defense was at its best late after Louisville (30-10) had whittled a 13-point deficit to 53-51 with 7:34 to play. The Cardinals missed their next nine shots as Kentucky opened the lead to 60-51 with 4:29 to go.

Despite being outrebounded 40-33, including 19-6 on the offensive end, Kentucky played the defense that had it at No. 1 for 10 weeks this season and earned the Wildcats the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.