NEW ORLEANS — With Louisville staying close by outrebounding Kentucky, Coach John Calipari challenged Terrence Jones to get busy on the boards. That Jones delivered helped UK win 69-61 in the Final Four semifinals.
"In the second half, he got four rebounds in the last 10 minutes," Calipari said, "which basically finished off the game. I kept telling him: This is your game. You've been in this game before."
Jones helped ease Kentucky to victory with a putback dunk that extended the lead to 62-53 with 2:27 left.
"I thought he played terrific down the stretch," Calipari said. "He was not what we needed him to be in the first half."
Jones, who finished with six points and seven rebounds, noted Louisville's effort on the boards.
"Everybody crashed for them," he said. "They had all five guys in there. Nobody got back.
"They were just relentless."
Jones missed his three free-throw attempts, which contributed to Kentucky's season-low 55-percent accuracy (11-for-20). The previous low was 55.2 percent against Kansas (16-for-29) on Nov. 15.
"A little too hard on the first two," Jones said. "The other one was to the right."
Jones, who missed all five free-throw attempts in last year's Final Four semifinal loss to Connecticut, acknowledged how the misses worked on his mind.
"I'd say it definitely was on the last one," he said. "The first two felt good. Just a little long. I don't want to try to think about that last one."
Haith on UK
Frank Haith of Missouri, who received recognition Friday as the national Coach of the Year by The Associated Press, called UK a worthy champion.
"I do think they have the best team," he said. "They've proven all year they're the best team."
Calipari told him it was his best defensive team, Haith said.
To beat Kentucky, Haith suggested three keys:
■ Limit turnovers to keep UK out of transition.
■ Dominate the paint.
■ Dictate tempo.
Before heading to the post-game news conference, UK Coach John Calipari paused on his way out of the locker room. He approached a middle-aged man wearing a brown polo shirt and a UK official party credential. The two hugged and spoke for a moment before the UK coach exited.
The man was Bob Rotella, a noted sports psychologist.
Rotella said he began working with Calipari when the UK coach began his career at UMass. Calipari has a keen interest in the mental approach to playing sports, Rotella said.
Rotella lauded how Doron Lamb and Jones shook off poor stretches of play against Louisville to contribute to the victory.
"I'm proud of them to keep working hard and not get down," he said.
Back to basics
U of L freshman Chane Behanan minced no words when asked about UK outplaying his team down the stretch.
"With a good basketball team, you've really got to be solid and locked in on defense," he said. "Calipari is a good coach and they have big-time players."
Pitino salutes UK
U of L Coach Rick Pitino saluted UK's style of play and court demeanor.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't always liked some of the Kentucky teams," he said. "But I really like this team a lot because of their attitude and the way they play."
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist winced as he exited the game with 6:08 left. Television reported that he had sustained a quadriceps injury and might not return to action.
Moments later, Kidd-Gilchrist returned to contribute two dunks and a lob pass to Anthony Davis that netted a third.
When asked about the injury, Kidd-Gilchrist was coy.
"I just slipped," he said.
The injury? "Nothing," he said with a knowing smile. "I'm all good."
Glimpse of future
UK fans here can see future Cats Derek Willis and Willie Cauley, as well as potential recruit Nerlens Noel in the All-American Championship game at Lakefront Arena on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. CDT. Tickets are available. The arena is about 10 minutes from downtown.
The arena is on the campus of the University of New Orleans, no more than 15 minutes from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Fox TV producer Chris Visser, the brother of sideline-reporting icon Leslie Visser, noted how Ohio State star Jared Sullinger and Kansas All-American Thomas Robinson each wore No. 0.
Of the second national semifinal, Visser quipped, "It's a zero-sum game."
Baseball Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax attended the games as a guest of CBS.
Koufax played basketball for the University of Cincinnati before signing with the Brooklyn (later Los Angeles) Dodgers.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com