NEW ORLEANS — Monday night’s national championship game will be the second time this season Kentucky and Kansas meet with all of college basketball watching.
The first matchup was in mid-November at Madison Square Garden as part of a doubleheader. Second-ranked Kentucky beat No. 12 Kansas 75-65, but it wasn’t the featured game.
That happened to be the night Duke beat Michigan State 74-69 to give Mike Krzyzewski his 903rd career victory, the one that moved him past Bob Knight to the top of Division I’s all-time list for men’s basketball.
This time around the Wildcats and Jayhawks are the main attraction.
Five months ago, sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones led the Wildcats to the victory with Anthony Davis, one of three freshmen starters, having seven of the team’s 13 blocked shots. Kentucky wasn’t very smooth offensively that day, committing 19 turnovers, a figure they topped only twice all season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 12 points and nine rebounds for Kentucky, while fellow freshman Marquis Teague also scored 12 points.
Tyshawn Taylor scored 22 points to lead the Jayhawks, while Thomas Robinson added 11 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 3:31 to go.
Taylor proved to be a pretty good analyst with his postgame assessment.
“Really, really, really talented one through seven. Two or three games in, they’re going to be really, really good once they get more practice and more reps,” he said then. “A lot of the guys are young still. I think they’re going to be amazing.”
Kentucky shot 51 percent from the field including 7 of 15 3-point attempts. Kansas shot just 33.9 percent and made only 4 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Both teams are a lot different now, especially on defense, and the players who were so new to college basketball then are grizzled veterans with almost 40 games under their belts.
On Sunday, Davis, the AP player of the year, said his biggest memory of the November game is that Robinson, also a first-team all-America, was saddled by foul trouble.
“I know how that is,” Davis said. “It’s hard to play. You can’t be aggressive.”
Robinson will approach this game differently.
“The first time we played Kentucky I allowed them to do their best to me emotionally and physically. I played a horrible game,” he said Sunday. “The biggest part of why we lost that game is because I was kind of selfish and tried to do everything by myself. I can’t let that happen in this game. In fact, I won’t let that happen this game.”
Jones was more down the middle.
”It’s hard to judge this game with that game,” he said Sunday. “It’s hard to do when teams get so much better. We have gotten better, and they have gotten better.”