ATLANTA – It didn’t seem possible to quiet the Kentucky faithful at the Georgia Dome, but Anthony Davis figured out a way.
Davis – the freshman phenom who could become the latest in a line of one-and-done players coached by John Calipari – collided with Baylor’s Perry Jones III early in the second half of the Wildcats’ 82-70 victory Sunday in the South Regional final.
As Jones limped off the court with the help of two teammates, Davis writhed in pain under the basket, silencing the crowd of 24,035.
Jones’ left foot hit Davis’ left knee as Davis was driving the lane at the 18:38 mark of the second half. It was a scary moment for Kentucky – and especially for Davis, the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in June – as the 6-10 Chicago native grimaced on the bench while Kentucky’s trainer worked on the knee.
But Davis returned at the 17:24 mark, causing the Kentucky contingent to erupt again. As Davis stood by the scorer’s table, Wildcats fans went nuts.
“The knee is doing fine,” Davis said. “I just bumped it with Perry Jones, and it started hurting real bad. But my team needed me, and I’ve always wanted to go to the Final Four, so I decided to come in. I’ll go back to Kentucky and get treatment and ice it and get a lot of treatment. But I’m not going to sit out.”
Davis had another double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) and blocked six shots. He played with four fouls for most of the second half and only scored four points after halftime.
Kentucky, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, advanced to its second consecutive Final Four and 15th overall. The Wildcats will play Louisville on Saturday (5:09 p.m.) at the Superdome in New Orleans.
It’s only the second time since 1975 that both teams have been in the Final Four together.
“The city of Louisville drives our state, the university drives that city and it’s important for our state,” Calipari said. “It’s going to be a hard game. I’m just worried about us playing our best.”
Adding to the intensity of the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry is the long-simmering feud between Calipari and Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
The feud goes back nearly 20 years, when Pitino was instrumental in helping then-friend Calipari land the head-coaching job at Massachusetts. The friendship soured over time when Calipari’s teams at UMass and Pitino’s at Kentucky started competing at a national level.
“It’s fine,” Calipari said. “We don’t send each other Christmas cards, but it’s fine. [We’re] friendly acquaintances, I don’t know.”
Kentucky (36-2) moves on with three freshmen in its starting lineup: Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19 points) and Marquis Teague. Calipari has been criticized for using the freshmen because they might forgo the rest of their college eligibility and turn pro.
“There’s some opinions that will never change, and I’m not trying to change them,” Calipari said. “There’s some people that think I should convince these guys to stay in school when the numbers say they should leave. I just won’t do it.”