Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

April 3, 2012

No points needed as Davis does everything else

NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis did everything but score.

He didn't need to.

The player of the year was simply sublime in Kentucky's 67-59 victory over Kansas on Monday night that gave the Wildcats their eighth national title. His presence in the lane forced Kansas to back off and look for other options, none of which were very good. When the Jayhawks did venture inside, he made them pay with ferocious blocks and rebounds.

And though his shots weren't falling, he made sure they did for his teammates, setting them up with quick passes that never missed the mark.

Despite finishing with just six points, all but two on free throws, Davis flirted with a double-double. He tied Joakim Noah's individual record for blocks in the NCAA championship game with six, grabbed 16 rebounds, had five assists and three steals.

If this was the last game at Kentucky for the 19-year-old freshman, expected to be the No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA draft, it was a heck of a way to go out. To the surprise of no one, he was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

"Well, it's not me, it's these guys behind me. They led us this whole tournament," Davis said. "This whole game I was struggling offensively and I told my team every time down, 'You all score the ball. I'm just going to defend and rebound.'"

As the final seconds ticked down, cheers of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" echoed throughout the arena. And as the buzzer sounded, Davis finally showed the personality that is sure to make him a megastar at the next level. Grabbing a national champions T-shirt and hat, Davis quickly put them on and strolled over to the Kentucky fans, pointing at the court as he did Saturday night.

No screams of "This is my stage!" on this night. But everybody, from the Kentucky fans to the Kansas players, already knew it.

Standing tall on the podium for the trophy presentation, Davis repeatedly turned to the Kentucky cheering section, waving his long arms and urging fans to show the Wildcats even more love.

Davis has loomed large all season, and not simply because he's 6-foot-10 with a wingspan of a Piper Cub. A guard until a growth spurt, he still has that sweet shot and sixth sense of a smaller player. And despite playing at a Chicago high school that didn't even have its own gym, Davis seems born for the big stage and bright lights.

It's Davis' game, though, that really has star quality.

He finished the season with 20 double-doubles, seven in his last 10 games. This was only the eighth time this season he failed to crack double figures.

And in the truest sign of a special talent, even when he's having an "off" night, as he was Monday, he still finds ways to dominate the game. Having already played Kansas earlier this season, he wasted no time reminding the Jayhawks of what they were in for, crowding Thomas Robinson on the Jayhawks' first few possessions and disrupting the All-American's shots. Kansas center Jeff Withey, a shot-blocking machine himself, looked like a high school kid beside Davis.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has raved about his team's unselfishness all season, usually pointing to Davis as the prime example. With his shots not falling, Davis buckled down on defense and let his teammates take care of the scoring.

"I don't know of any team that has sacrificed for each other like this team," Calipari said. "And they deserve this moment. They really do."

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