Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's No Artwork, but Arizona Puts Kentucky on the Canvas

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's No Artwork, but Arizona Puts Kentucky on the Canvas

Article excerpt

Gentlemen, start your engines. The NCAA championship game was billed as the Indianapolis 500 of college basketball. Two cat-quick teams, Kentucky and Arizona, sprinting up and down a fast track on a high-speed chase.

Surprise.

Unfasten the seat belts and put on the headgear. We saw a boxing match at the RCA Dome. Fierce and bloody. Exhausting and exhilarating. Arizona and Kentucky took their best shots in a furious test of resolve. The gloves went up, stayed up. Someone had to drop. Arizona and Kentucky jabbed, hooked and poked. They traded points, and the scorecard remained close all evening. "Just a war out there," Arizona guard Miles Simon said. These two cages of loose Wildcats tore into each other. Club fights are never pretty; this one was particularly ugly in style. No glamour. Just grit. "I'm not sure two teams could expend more energy then these teams did," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. This game was a couple of hours of hacking, bad shooting, whistles and a free-throw marathon. The refs called 45 fouls, 29 against Kentucky. Four Kentuckians fouled out. The two teams combined to misfire on 78 of 130 shots from the floor. Ugh. Hey, a drama is a drama. It is fascinating just the same. We know the loser will eventually wobble and go down in an agonizing heap. And the winner will remain standing with weary arms raised. How will it all end? That final moment, when all is decided. That's what we wait for. On a wild Monday night, the helter-skelter action spilled into overtime. Kentucky, tired but proud, was last year's champion and would not surrender without a valiant struggle. Young Arizona, which plays no seniors, was supposed to be next year's champion. The past and the future collided in America's heartland. Kentucky had the pedigree, but the Arizona kids had the legs and more gumption. And in the end, Arizona outlasted a fatigued Kentucky team that ran out of fresh bodies and answers. To win, Kentucky needed a big game from star forward Ron Mercer. But Mercer, obviously spent, delivered only 13 points. So, the old champ fell. The title belt was passed. The new champ may be back in the big game a year from now, to defend the gold. But by then Arizona may be feeling the pressure, the heat, the weight of mighty expectations. This time around, Arizona's Cats were just precocious teenagers on a joyride through the NCAA Tournament, knocking off a killer row of No. 1 seeds. Arizona dropped Kansas. Arizona wiped out North Carolina. And in the final act, Arizona took Kentucky down 84-79. No team ever had won three consecutive games against No. 1 seeds to capture the NCAA championship. Arizona earned it, every giant step of the way. This was no fluke. Arizona did not sneak in the back door. Arizona strutted in with nerves of steel and took March over. …

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