Had the 2020 NCAA Tournament gone on as scheduled, the national title game would have taken place this evening.
Instead of celebrating yet another fun year of college basketball and crying over One Shining Moment tonight, we’re now left wondering what could have been.
Luckily for you, the UK Sports Network is set to rebroadcast Kentucky’s victory over Kansas in the 2012 national championship starting right now over on 630 WLAP, 840 WHAS, and iHeart Radio, among their numerous other affiliates and locations throughout the state.
While we huddle around our radios for our final fireside chat in the Kentucky Classics series with Tom Leach and the broadcast crew, let’s break down how the title win came to fruition in the context of the 2012 season, NCAA Tournament, and in the game itself.
Following a then-school record 30-win regular season that included a 24-game winning streak and 16-0 mark in conference play, the Wildcats earned the No. 1 overall seed in the South.
After an opening-round victory over 16-seed Western Kentucky, the Wildcats rattled off double-digit victories over eight-seed Iowa State in the Round of 32, four-seed Indiana in a rematch in the Sweet Sixteen, and three-seed Baylor in the Elite Eight to earn a spot in the Final Four.
In New Orleans, Kentucky managed to defeat in-state rival Louisville by a final score of 69-61 to earn a spot in the championship game, Calipari’s first in his time as head coach in Lexington.
Matched up against two-seed Kansas in the title game – a rematch of the November matchup between the Wildcats and Jayhawks earlier in the year – Kentucky managed to jump out to a ten-point lead in the first ten minutes before extending it to as many as 18 before halftime.
Kansas would claw back to cut the lead back down to 11 to begin the second half, again to ten with 11:52 to go, and then single digits with 4:17 remaining. The Cats continued to push the lead – Doron Lamb drilled back-to-back three-pointers with just over ten minutes to go to put his team up 16 – but the Jayhawks refused to go away.
After cutting it to nine with four minutes and change to go, Kansas went on a quick 7-3 run to cut the deficit down to just five with 1:37 to go.
In a momentum-shifting sequence up six with just over a minute remaining, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blocked Tyshawn Taylor at the rim and followed it up with a forced turnover. Taylor fouled Marquis Teague, who followed it up with two made free throws to extend the lead back to eight.
Taylor responded with a jumper of his own on the ensuing possession, but the damage had been done. Two Doron Lamb free throws with 18 seconds to go sealed the deal on Kentucky’s 67-59 victory over the Jayhawks to secure the program’s eighth national title.
Lamb led the way with 22 points on 7-12 shooting and 3-6 from three, followed by Teague with 14 points on 5-14 shooting. Kidd-Gilchrist rounded out double-digit scorers with 11 first-half points on 4-7 shooting to go with six rebounds, one assist, and one block.
Despite a rough shooting night (1-10 shooting), Anthony Davis finished the day with six points, 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists, and three steals en route to Most Outstanding Player honors.
For the Jayhawks, Taylor led the way with 19 points on 8-17 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, and a steal, followed by consensus First-Team All-American Thomas Robinson with 18 points on 6-17 shooting, 17 rebounds, and an assist. Elijah Johnson rounded out double-digit scorers with 13 points on 5-13 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
As a team, the Wildcats finished the day shooting 41.1% from the field overall and 42.9% from three compared to 35.5% shooting overall and 45.5% from three for the Jayhawks. Kentucky out-rebounded, out-assisted, and out-blocked Kansas, all while committing fewer total turnovers.
“I wanted everybody to see, we were the best team this season,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said after winning his first national championship. “We were the best team. I wanted this to be one for the ages.”
For those listening to the Kentucky Classics finale, feel free to sync the audio with the entire game replay below:
For yesterday’s debut of KSR’s ‘Game of the Day’ series, check out the the recap of Kentucky’s victory over Wisconsin in the 2014 Final Four here.