Kentucky beats Baylor 82-70 in South Regional

By Paul Newberry

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, March 25 2012 4:44 p.m. MDT

"It's kind of hard to play us," Davis said. "We're very long and very athletic. It makes it tough on the other team."

The Wildcats left New Orleans earlier this month disappointed with a loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

That one's long forgotten.

A national championship has been the goal all along.

"It's a great feeling to be part of something special," Davis said.

Quincy Acy led Baylor with 22 points, and Pierre Jackson added 21. Not enough. Not nearly enough.

"They're a great team," Acy said. "They've got some good some good dudes down there."

With Baylor's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III cheering on the Bears from the stands, Acy tried to send a message early on that Baylor would not be intimidated by the Wildcats.

Jones was in the clear and going in for a fastbreak layup when the 235-pound Acy came up from behind, took a whack at the ball but mainly just crashed into the Kentucky player, sending him flying into the Baylor cheerleaders along the baseline. Jones was OK, and the officials doled out a flagrant foul on Acy after looking at the replay.

Jones made one of the free throws, Kentucky missed a jumper and the Bears, seemingly inspired by Acy's bravado, ripped off an 8-0 run that led Calipari to call a quick timeout. He already had yanked Doron Lamb from the game for trying to make the highlight reels rather than taking a layup. The sophomore guard passed up a clear path to the basket, instead opting for a lob pass to the trailing Davis.

The big man missed the dunk, hanging on the rim as Baylor grabbed the rebound and took off the other way for a basket.

After Quincy Miller hit an uncontested 3-pointer from the top of the lane to give Baylor a 10-5 lead, Calipari lashed into his young team.

"I told them we've got to step on the gas here," he said.

Boy, did they respond. Sixteen consecutive points, an NBA-like display of defensive dominance and easy baskets that sent the Georgia Dome, and the predominantly blue-clad crowd, into a frenzy.

Cat-Lanta, indeed. Too bad RGIII couldn't suit up for the Bears, who couldn't wear the neon-green home uniforms they had specially made for the tournament. As the lower-seeded team, they switched to another special uniform, this one black and camouflage with neon trim.

Turns out, blue was the dominant color.

Jones displayed his all-around game, coming up with three steals and swatting away a shot by 5-foot-10 Pierre Jackson like this was a game between men and boys. Kentucky fed off his defense, running the court at every opportunity for layup after layup. Kidd-Gilchrist had three of them, along with a slam by Davis.

Miller hit a jumper and freshman Kyle Wiltjer knocked down a 3-pointer, pumping his fist and smiling as he trotted back down the court.

There were plenty of smiles from the folks in blue, though Kentucky did get a scare early in the second half when Davis went down with an injured left knee.

The 6-foot-10 freshman was driving to the basket when he banged knees with Baylor's Perry Jones III, going down hard along the baseline. A hush fell over the massive stadium as Davis, writhing in pain, grabbed at his knee. Finally, he limped to the bench, but it was clear the injury wasn't too serious when the trainers kept flexing the leg, then rubbed it with an ointment to ease the pain.

After just a few minutes, Davis got up and headed to the scorer's table, checking back into the game.

The Kentucky fans broke into a huge cheer of relief.

There's still work to do in the Big Easy.

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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