NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis trailed just slightly behind the Louisville defender, knowing the lob from teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was milliseconds away.
The freshman, college basketball’s player of the year, leapt up and, with one hand, corralled the pass and dunked it.
The play was the icing for Davis, who paced Kentucky into the NCAA tournament final with a 69-61 win over bitter rival Louisville on Saturday night.
Davis finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in a brilliant semifinal performance that only bolstered his NBA stock.
Louisville had won eight in row before the season-ending defeat.
Darius Miller added 13 points and Doron Lamb had 10 for Kentucky (37-2).
Kentucky shot 57.1 percent, holding Louisville to just 34.8 percent shooting for the game. But Louisville stuck around thanks to offensive rebounding, where it dominated 19-6.
The Cardinals (30-10) were trying to atone for an earlier seven-point loss to Kentucky.
Early on, it didn’t look like Louisville would have a chance.
Kentucky had held Louisville to less than 36 percent shooting in building 45-32 lead.
But the Cardinals had one thing Kentucky likely should have counted on – resilience.
Louisville went on a 15-4 run over a seven-minute stretch, using offensive rebounding and second-chance points as game-changing plays to tie it at 49-49.
That just set up the drama of the final two minutes.
Kentucky built its lead back to nine points on a dunk by Terrance Jones. But Louisville closed to within 63-58 on a dunk by Peyton Siva and a free-throw by Russ Smith.
Smith missed his second free throw and then Davis lit up the crowd with his monstrous alley-oop and for all intents and purposes, the game was over.
Siva missed a 3-pointer and Kidd-Gilchrist had two dunks sandwiched around a missed 3-pointer by Wayne Blackshear and the Wildcats held on.
Siva led Louisville with 11 points, Wayne Behanan added 10 and Gorgui Dieng had 7 points and 12 rebounds with four blocks.