UK Basketball: Kidd-Gilchrist said Wildcats can "taste the Final Four"
Kentucky¿s Darius Miller drives by Indiana¿s Christian Watford for two of his 19 points in Friday¿s 102-90 win over Indiana. Now Kentucky will face Baylor in today¿s South Regional final for a berth in the Final Four and a date with Louisville next Saturday in New Orleans. (Clay Jackson / March 25, 2012)
Baylor, which beat Xavier 75-70 Friday, lost three times to Missouri, twice to Kansas and twice to Iowa State — the team Kentucky beat last weekend in Louisville.
“I know Baylor is a long, athletic team,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Indiana in Friday’s 102-90 win. “But we have a lot of different ways to win, too. I can taste the Final Four, but we still have to take it one game at a time. We can’t think Final Four with Baylor next.”
All five Baylor starters — junior guard Pierre Jackson (13.6), sophomore guard Brady Heslip (10.4), freshman forward Quincy Miller (10.8), senior forward Quincy Acy (11.7) and sophomore forward Perry Jones III (13.4) — average double figures in scoring. Acy has 242 career dunks and is a 60 percent career shooter from the field.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said the Bears could be the most athletic, talented team UK¿has played since North Carolina in December.
“They play hard. They play to their strengths,” Calipari said. “They attack. Jackson is a water bug, and he’s really good. Obviously, Acy is what he is. And the other guys are in that mold that I like, which are long. The longer the better, and that’s what they are.
“They’ve got a shooter (Heslip) that knocks it down. If you give them an inch, he gets it. He had 27 (points) against Colorado and I think he bounced the ball twice. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The Bears have held 25 opponents to 70 or fewer points and overwhelmed Xavier on Friday with a big blitz to start the game and then held on after squandering most of the lead thanks in part to four late free throws by Heslip, a 94 percent foul shooter.
“I wanted to still be playing in March. That was a goal. It says a lot about our team. We talked and set goals and we are doing a good job to get them,” Acy, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds against Xavier, said. “You want to play a sport you love in front of all these people. To think that if we keep winning we get to play in front of more and more people, that’s motivation.
“We definitely have a lot of talent. It just comes down to execution really. Rebounding, defending and scoring. Talent is not a factor. It is effort and heart right now when we play Kentucky. It’s not a matter of talent because we have talent.”
Jones leads Baylor in rebounding with 7.7 per game and is a 49.4 percent shooter from the field. However, he scored just nine points total in Baylor’s first two NCAA wins and questions surfaced that he might be paying more attention to his potential NBA draft status than Baylor’s team. He had 14 points, five rebounds and one blocked shot Friday.
“I had a couple of questions last week about my draft stock. Last thing I want to worry about right now is my draft stock because we are so close to a national championship and have Kentucky next,” Jones said. “I¿have not even thought about the¿NBA this year. I am worried now about a national championship more than I¿am about next year. The world expects me to be Kevin Durant (of the Oklahoma Thunder) and score 30 points a game and do all these type things, but I¿am on a team. I don’t have do that. We have more weapons than last year. I just have to do my job against Kentucky, nothing more.”
Heslip, who had 10 points Friday, said the Bears “definitely see Kentucky on TV a lot” and know what to expect.
“They have a lot of firepower, great shot blockers and great guards,”¿Heslip said. “They’ve really got everything, which is why they are No. 1. But we came here to win two games. We don’t just want to play Kentucky. We came to win. Everybody wants to play the best, so we know what lies ahead. We think we are extremely talented, too, and we can do things to make a big impact on the game. We just have to hit them first and get ready for a 40-minute fight.”
Calipari said it will be a “hard” game for his team considering tipoff is only about 38 hours after UK’s win over Indiana ended. That’s why he said making sure his players rested and got their legs back Saturday was important.
“I would think it would be fast (pace), but I think they’re going to play a lot of zone,” Calipari said. “It may slow the game down a little bit.
“I trust these players. Six turnovers (against Indiana), we scored 102 points. I trust them. I know they’re going to make good decisions.”