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Pelicans' Darius Miller enjoys rooting Kentucky home

New Orleans lost a tight game to the Blazers on Sunday night, but Pelicans starters Anthony Davis and Darius Miller got to see Kentucky, their college team, advance to the NCAA finals the night before with a win over Wisconsin in heroic fashion.

“I’m proud of the guys. They’ve been playing really good. Hopefully they can keep it going,” said Miller, the 6-8 small forward who teamed with Davis and others on Kentucky’s 2012 national champs before heading to the NBA.

With less than six seconds left in Saturday’s semifinal game, Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison sank the winning 3-pointer from the same spot where he had made a shot to beat Michigan in the Elite Eight.

“He’s done it a couple times in the tournament already. I had faith it was going in,” Miller said. “I like the way he took it with confidence.”

After the Pelicans’ 100-94 loss to Portland, the 6-10 Davis -- New Orleans’ star with 20.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game this season -- declined to comment on the latest upset victory by Kentucky, for whom he was national player of the year in 2012.

Miller, however, reflected on that 38-2 season.

“It was one of the best experience of my life,” he said. “I’ll always remember I got to win one with a bunch of guys I enjoy playing basketball with. It was great.”

Davis, held to 15 points (6-of-18 field-goal shooting) and five rebounds by the Blazers, was one of four freshmen who played prominent roles on the Wildcats’ title team two years ago.

In Saturday’s 74-73 win against Wisconsin, seven UK frosh each played at least 10 minutes. The only non-freshman to play more than one minute for Kentucky was sophomore Alex Poythress, who came off the bench for 29 minutes.

Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans played for UK coach John Calipari at the University of Memphis. Evans wonders how Calipari herds a flock of elite recruits every year.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Evans said, “but he’s really good at it.”

But even with very talented players, getting a group of freshman to mature and mesh in one year isn’t always a picnic.

“You’ve got to be ready,” Evans said, “because he’s going to be on you every day. If you mess up, he’s going to take you out. He’s going to scream at you.”

Evans said Calipari is tough for a reason, though.

“He just wants you to be the best you can be,” Evans said.

Miller liked Kentucky so much that he graduated from the university after using up his four years of eligibility. However, he said he doesn’t need to see his former home anytime soon.

“At times I miss it, but I like where I’m at right now,” Miller said. “I’ve had enough days at Kentucky, so I wouldn’t go back. But it was a lot of fun.”