In the early going, the similarities between the squads extended beyond their white and blue uniforms. Both had dominant shot blocking performances in the game, but whereas Kansas' center Jeff Withey's swats kept finding the stands, Anthony Davis or a teammate was able to corral the balls he kept from the basket. Those possessions mattered in what turned out to be an eight-point game.
Against previous opponents, Kansas had turned defensive stops into offensive fast breaks by leaking out. But Kentucky kept hustling back on defense and then immediately driving back at the Jayhawks. The early frenetic pace rocked Kansas, and the Wildcats jumped out to an 18-point lead without Davis, the national player of the year, scoring a single point. Still, the Jayhawks set the script in the last two minutes of the half with Tyshawn Taylor and Robinson each scoring a bucket to cut UK's half-time lead to 14.
The formula for Kansas wasn't broken - they held Kentucky to just 26 second-half points. It's just that the equation was no longer balanced. CBS flashed a stat at the 13-minute mark that Kentucky had hit only two of its first 11 field-goal attempts and had committed six turnovers in the second half. The problem for KU was that the team had only managed to shave two points off Kentucky's lead, even with their improved defense.
But Kansas kept pressing. And Kentucky coach John Calipari started to lose his poise. And then you start thinking about Kansas scraping and clawing back against Calipari's Memphis Tigers just four years ago. And then you think about him thinking about that on the sidelines. And Kansas coach Bill Self has that half-smile that suggests he's got a play the other team can't stop. And CBS is flashing the end-of-game runs that Kansas used to beat North Carolina and Ohio State. And suddenly it's just a five-point ballgame with 1:37 to go. But Davis hits a free throw, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blocks Tyshawn Taylor (who got free on a beautiful back door cut), and Kentucky stamps out what would have been the largest second-half comeback in NCAA history.
Kansas showed the kind of effort necessary to win a national championship. They just met a team that is better at doing the very things that Kansas needed to do to win.