NEW ORLEANS — Kansas Coach Bill Self barely had time to savor Saturday night's 64-62 victory over Ohio State in the NCAA semifinals before looking ahead to Monday's championship showdown against Kentucky.
Trailing 34-25 at intermission, Self's Jayhawks put together a terrific second half to win before 73,361 fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"If we can play that (way) both halves, it's still good enough to get beat. I mean, we've got to play a lot better than that," Self said. "We're playing a terrific team.
"It's pretty cool to have the winningest program of all time (Kentucky) and the second-winningest program of all time (Kansas) hooking up on Monday night."
Kentucky beat Kansas 75-65 back on Nov. 15, in New York's Madison Square Garden.
"We weren't a team yet," Self said. "We were still trying to figure things out."
In Kentucky, the Jayhawks "get to play the best team in the country, hands down, from Day One," Self said. "And the most consistent. ... They're terrific. They're great. They have guys who can make plays you can't coach."
"I think we match up good (against UK)," said Tyshawn Taylor, who had 10 points, three rebounds and nine assists against Ohio State. "The three guards and the two bigs match up really well. I think they're a little deeper ... and they can pull some guys in. But I think we match up well and I think it's going to be fun.
"I think we've got to stop their transition, and we've got to use our transition. I think in the first game we got away from that when we played them. But our transition has been good. And as far as defending, that's what got us here."
Said Conner Teahan, one of only two Jayhawk reserves to play Saturday, "We're just going to have to play great defense and limit their runs as best that we can. They're a great team. We're going to have to play really solid defense and get out on transition."
Niko Roberts, who did not play for Kansas on Saturday, thinks Kansas will match up just fine against the Wildcats.
"I think when we played them the first time, they didn't really shock us, but they just played really well," Roberts said. "Nobody had really seen how Kentucky plays. I think we've gotten a lot better. So I think, next game, we'll be a lot better. ... We've got Jeff (Withey) down low, so we've got some size to combat their size and stuff like that, and I think we'll do well."
Coach Rick Pitino will be pulling for the team that knocked his Louisville team out in the first semifinal.
"I'll certainly be rooting for them hard to bring the trophy back to Kentucky because I'm really impressed with them, not only as basketball players — the way they carry themselves, their attitude. They're a great group of guys, doing a tremendous job," Pitino said. "Louisville will be rooting for Kentucky, which doesn't happen very often, to bring home that trophy to the state."
Can the top-ranked Cats be beaten?
"No question about it, because Vanderbilt did it," Pitino said. "But you're going to have to play great offense, great defense and you've got to bring your 'A-plus' game, and they have to have a 'B' game. That's what has to happen."
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com