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July 23, 2014

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NCAA Tournament:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s 24 points lead Kentucky past Indiana

• Betting line via Wynn Las Vegas: Kentucky -9.5, covers.

ATLANTA — Anthony Davis had a rather quiet night. No worries. He's got plenty of help at Kentucky.

The top-seeded Wildcats took care of the team that beat them back in early December and are off to another regional final, putting all their weapons on display in a 102-90 victory over gritty Indiana on Friday night.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 24 points and four other players were in double figures for Kentucky (35-2), which made up for a 73-72 loss to the Hoosiers.

Davis, the Wildcats' freshman star, wasn't a huge factor after picking up two early fouls, finishing with nine points and 12 rebounds. Kidd-Gilchrist took the starring role with a double-double, also grabbing 10 rebounds. Doron Lamb had 21 points, Darius Miller 19, Marquis Teague 14 and Terrence Jones 12.

Christian Watford had 27 points to lead the Hoosiers (27-9), whose comeback season ended two wins shy of the Final Four. Indiana, which won a total of 28 games the previous three seasons, has regained its usual place among the college basketball bluebloods under coach Tom Crean.

But Big Blue is moving on to its third straight regional final.

Kentucky will face Baylor on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.

Indiana's freshman star, Cody Zeller, had 20 points, while Victor Oladipo chipped in with 15 before fouling out. Kidd-Gilchrist just kept pounding the ball inside, drawing foul after foul on the Hoosiers, then knocking down the free throws. He went 10-for-10 at the line.

Jones, who had only four points in the December meeting, signaled this would be a different night by scoring Kentucky's first five points in the rematch. That set the tone for a shootout, both teams running and gunning in an exhilarating display that kept fans in both blue and red on their feet most of the time at the Georgia Dome.

There wasn't much to fear on the inside in the opening half, not with the two big men, Davis and Zeller, both spending much of the period on the bench, each saddled with two fouls.

Davis sat for the final 14:05 of the half, the Wildcats not wanting to take any chance on their best player picking up another foul. The 6-foot-10 freshman had two early blocks, but Indiana altered its offensive philosophy when he went to the bench. The Hoosiers started pounding the ball inside without fear of having it swatted away -- especially Watford.

The hero of the first game had 17 points by halftime, including a short jumper with 3 1/2 minutes left that capped a 21-10 stretch for the Hoosiers. Coach John Calipari quickly called a timeout with team trailing 43-39, and Teague slammed the ball in frustration.

That was just a minor blip.

Miller hit a jumper, Indiana's Tom Prichard botched a left-handed dunk, and the Wildcats raced the other way, tying it up just like that on Jones' tip-in. They led 50-47 at the half and never surrendered the lead in the second half, wrapping it up with a dead-eye 35-of-37 showing at the free-throw line.

Davis wasn't completely out of the loop. He also had three blocks, including an emphatic stuffing of Zeller when the Indiana big man tried to go under the basket and flip it in backhanded. Davis reached out his right hand and squashed the ball out of bounds.

Indiana had hoped for some more magic at the Georgia Dome, where they capped a surprising run to the championship game in 2002 before losing to Maryland.

After that, the Hoosiers fell on hard times. The scandalous regime of Kelvin Sampson left a massive rebuilding job for Crean, whose first three years were downright hideous — 28-66 overall, 8-46 in the Big Ten, a stunning fall for a program of Indiana's stature.

This season, they turned it all around with a performance befitting the logo worn by many of their faithful who descended on Atlanta, "We're Back."

But this is "Cat-lanta," a frequent site of the Southeastern Conference tournament and familiar surroundings for Kentucky and its fans. The Georgia Dome is hosting the Final Four in 2013, and the Wildcats view it as merely a stopping-off point this year on the way to their ultimate goal.

Calipari arrived in the Bluegrass State three years ago with a one-and-done philosophy -- sign a bunch of the best high schools players every season, even if you know most of `em are bound for the NBA after their freshman years.

It produced a regional final in 2010 and a trip to the Final Four last year.

This time, nothing less than cutting down the nets after the final game will do.

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