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Two years ago, Baylor reached the Elite Eight but lost to top-seeded Duke, which went on to win the 2010 national championship.
Sunday in Atlanta, the Bears again faced a top seed in a regional final. The outcome was the same - a disappointing loss for Baylor. Kentucky, the overall No. 1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament, defeated the Bears 82-70 in the Georgia Dome. Will the Wildcats' story end the same as the Blue Devils' did?
"Kentucky's better than I thought," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team finished 30-8, a school record for victories in a season. "Definitely, we haven't played a better team than them all year, and I don't know in the last couple years. When we lost to Duke, Duke was a very good team, but this Kentucky team is better in my opinion."
Kentucky (36-2) proved itself with a dominating first half. Baylor jumped to a 10-5 lead in the first four minutes but then the Wildcats' defense started forcing turnovers and missed shots. That fueled a fast break that produced a 16-0 run and a 21-10 lead.
"The goal is no dunks, and I think that was out the window four seconds into the game, it seemed like," Drew said.
"Yeah, we knew that coming in," Baylor's Quincy Acy said of Kentucky's fast break tendencies. "It cost us the game. They're a very good team. They got off to a hot start. We came back in the second half and eliminated the transition points, but it was too late then."
A basket by Acy ended the 16-0 run but four minutes later a dunk by Anthony Davis doubled the score as Kentucky took a 30-15 lead with 7:48 remaining. The Wildcats led at halftime 42-22.
At one point, Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had as many points as Baylor's entire team: 17 apiece.
"It's kind of hard to play us," said Davis, who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. "We're very long and very athletic. It makes it tough on the other team."
Those expecting a 30-point blowout were sadly disappointed. While the Kentucky lead grew to 22 points early in the second half, Baylor cut the deficit to 63-50 with 8:54 remaining and a Pierre Jackson 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining pulled the Bears within 78-68. However, the mountain was too tall for the Bears to scale.
Acy, the senior forward who was a reserve on the 2010 Elite Eight team, closed out his career with 22 points and eight rebounds. Jackson had 21 while Perry Jones III had 17.
"We fought hard," Acy said. "It hasn't really - you know, there's emotion after the game, but I don't think it's really set in. I'll have to take a little time to sit with myself, and I think it will set in that this was my last game."