ARLINGTON, Texas -- Derek Willis, imitating Wisconsin star center Frank Kaminsky in practice, earned the nickname "Derek the Destroyer" from Marcus Lee.
Willis may have terrorized Lee and Dakari Johnson, but it served a purpose.
The Cats limited Wisconsin's star center to just eight points on seven shots and limited his touches. Kaminsky also didn't manage a single 3-point attempt after torching Arizona for three treys and 28 points in the Elite Eight.
"It was perfect," Lee said. "Derek absolutely loved lighting us up in practice and we needed it a lot, especially going at (Kaminsky) now. He did exactly what everybody thought he was. He was great. He played his butt off and it just happened to tip the wrong way for him."
Lee, Julius Randle and Alex Poythress all took turns on the Badgers' leading scorer and rebounder, but it was Johnson who most often matched up with the versatile 7-footer. Hearing all the talk about how tough a matchup it would be for him, Johnson took the challenge personally.
"During practice he took it super serious when Derek was going at us because he knew he would be able to slide his feet and defend," Lee said. "We just had to make sure he was it was in his head the whole time and that's what he did. He played great defense the whole game."
Not only that, but Johnson added 10 points and seven rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end. The freshman is averaging 11 points and 5.3 rebounds starting with the Louisville game, when Willie Cauley-Stein went down with an ankle injury.
Cats still clutch
On Thursday, we broke down the Cats' offensive excellence in closing out wins over Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan.
UK didn't quite keep up its ridiculous two-point-per-possession pace, but the Cats once again were efficient in the clutch in advancing to the national championship game.
In six possessions over the final five minutes against Wisconsin, UK scored nine points for an average of 1.5 points per possession. The Cats shot 3 of 6 from the field, 1 of 2 from 3-point range and 2 of 2 from the foul line in the process.
Here are UK's updated offensive statistics in the last five minutes of the last four wins:
- 28 possessions
- 53 points
- 1.89 points per possession
- 14 of 21 (66.7 percent) from the field
- 6 of 8 (75 percent) from 3
- 19 of 23 (82.6 percent) from the free-throw line
- One turnover
- Five rebounds on 10 free misses (offensive-rebounding percentage of .500)
Against Wisconsin, UK scored on all three possessions on which it trailed over the final five minutes. The Cats have now scored on 12 straight possessions in such situations at a 2.33-points-per-possession clip.
The Cats have needed their offense to come through in the final minutes because their opponents highly ranked offenses are scoring almost at will. UK has allowed at least 1.08 points per possession in four consecutive games and an average of 1.19 over that stretch after Wisconsin rolled up 1.20 points per possession on Saturday.
Over that same set of four games, UK is scoring an average of 1.23 points per possession.
Drake visits locker room
With the Final Four on a stage like AT&T Stadium, Saturday night turned into a who's who of American celebrities.
Among the stars spotted in the record NCAA Tournament crowd of 79,444:
- Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard
- Comedian Kevin Hart
- Naismith Hall of Famer Charles Barkley
- UCLA legend Bill Walton
- Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel
- NASCAR driver Danica Patrick
- Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson
- Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson
But the celebrity the Cats were most star-struck by - the artist whom many of the players likely have on their iPods - just happened to be in UK's locker room after the victory. Drake, after watching the Cats win 74-73, stopped by to celebrate with the team.
"He just talked to us," Dominique Hawkins said. "Told us to enjoy the moment."
Coach Cal, of course, has called Drake a friend since his days at Memphis. He served as a celebrity coach during the first Big Blue Madness of the Calipari era, and last year Coach Cal attended Drake's high-school graduation.
"It's crazy," Hawkins said. "I never had anybody famous ever celebrate a win with me or anything like that. I'm honored to be on this team. I guess it's a blessing for us to play for Kentucky because we have so many fans, fans like Drake. It's unbelievable."
Former Wildcat Terrence Jones was also in the locker room after the win.
Lost in the heroics of Aaron Harrison's game-winning shot and Alex Poythress' big buckets late was the steady play of James Young on Saturday.
The freshman wing, who has hit his fair share of big shots during this NCAA Tournament run, led UK against the Badgers with 17 points. Young scored seven of Kentucky's first nine points and nailed the only 3-pointer of the game until Aaron Harrison's shot.
"James had it going," Aaron Harrison said.
Noting the wealth of stars on this UK team, which was punctuated by the fact that Young led all scorers Saturday and was just another guy in postgame video interviews, Calipari pointed out some Young's scoring barrages this season and predicted a big night for the Michigan native.
Remember, Calipari has been pretty spot on the last two games in predicting Marcus Lee's coming-out party and Alex Poythress' difference-making plays.
"James Young has had 25-point games, which I'll make a prediction he'll have in this Monday night game," Coach Cal said. "You listening to me, (James)? I'm putting a positive seed in your mind right now."
Calipari made a similar prediction before the 2012 national championship game about Doron Lamb. Lamb would go on to score 22 points to lead UK to a 67-59 win over Kansas.
While pandemonium broke out in AT&T Stadium as soon as Aaron Harrison hit the game-winning shot, mayhem took over in Lexington.
Reports out of Lexington showed pictures of students overtaking South Limestone and State Street in the seconds after the game. Videos of raucous celebrations at local bars and restaurants were easy to find on social media.
"They're definitely burning something right now," Julius Randle said.
Despite the effort of local authorities to tone down the celebrations of the 2012 run, there were reports of couches burning in Lexington.
To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.