NEW ORLEANS — As Tony the Tiger might say, those Kentucky Wildcats — they're Grrr—8!
"The best feeling ever," Marquis Teague said after helping UK win its eighth national championship with a 67-59 victory over Kansas.
Teague, the freshman point guard from Indianapolis, finished with 14 points, two rebounds and three assists while playing 34 minutes.
He came up big in the closing moments as a pro-Big Blue crowd of 70,913 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome roared.
Never miss a local story.
UK (38-2), ranked No. 1, led by as many as 18 points in the first half and was up by 14 at intermission.
Teague started a three-party during the late first-half run. After he hit from the left side with 7:16 left, UK's next two scores came on long-range shots by Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, the latter pushing the score to 37-21.
Sixth-ranked Kansas, following its modus operandi, rallied.
When the Jayhawks cut the deficit to 48-38, Lamb answered with back-to-back threes for the Wildcats.
Kansas (32-7) still wasn't through.
An 8-0 run pulled the Jayhawks to within seven, 59-52, with 3:52 left.
"That's how we've been playing all year," Kansas guard Travis Releford said. "Unfortunately, we didn't have enough to get over the hump like we have in the past. They're a great team. They controlled the game the majority of the game. We just let, at the end of the game, a few (chances) get away from us to make it a one-possession ball game."
This time, Teague stepped up to drain a three from the top of the key.
"I just wanted to knock it down, give my team a better chance to win," he said as he prepared to help cut down a net.
Elijah Johnson countered with a three for Kansas and, after a Teague miss, Thomas Robinson's two free throws cut the UK lead to 62-57 with 1:37 left.
Anthony Davis, named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, made one of two free throws at 1:11.
After a Kansas turnover, Teague converted both halves of a one-and-one with 53.9 seconds left.
Taylor scored on a drive with 40 seconds left, and Teague missed a one-and-one chance five seconds later.
But the Cats were safe.
As Johnson prepared to launch a three-point attempt, an onrushing Davis caused the Jayhawk to hesitate and travel.
"He makes a strong impact whether he's scoring or not," Teague said of Davis. "Altering shots, making it tough for the offense to score."
Monday marked the sixth time the Jayhawks have come in second. They have won three times.
"I felt like we just came out and competed," Releford said. "Just to be so close, it sucks even more.
"Guys are down right now ... but I don't think we're going to let this affect what we have to do and things we have to do next year and for guys who go on to the next level. So I don't think it's going to keep us down for (long) because we had a great season."