Randle, Johnson and Aaron Harrison all finished with 15 points. Andrew Harrison had 14 points and seven assists and the Wildcats played good enough defense down the stretch to swing the game.
It looked as if Louisville (31-6) was headed toward that highly-anticipated rematch of last year's NCAA title game when Luke Hancock made two free throws with 4:33 left to give the Cardinals a 66-59 lead.
That's when the Wildcats buckled down.
Aaron Harrison started the game-closing run with two free throws. Alex Poythress tied the score with a three-point play with 2:11 to play, gave Kentucky the lead for good with another free throw at the 1:26 mark, and the Wildcats' suffocating defense allowed just one basket — a jumper from Smith with 1:10 — the rest of the way.
"We lost it at the foul line and we lost it on the backboard, every other area we played really well," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "But you've got to give them credit. They usually beat you on the backboard. That was the catalyst at the end of the game."
Louisville was led by two seniors — Smith with 23 points and Luke Hancock with 19.
What has helped Kentucky's sudden surge? Time and patience.
"Thank goodness it was a 30-game season," Calipari said. "We had five more games to get this thing right and get the plane down before the runway ran out and we were in grass."
Michigan, the Big Ten regular season champion and conference tourney runner-up, nearly got derailed in a game it dominated for the first 35 minutes.
The second-seeded Wolverines led by 13 in the first half, 11 at halftime, 60-45 with 10:55 to play and were still up 70-60 with 3:40 left when Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas hit a 3-pointer. Then, it seemed as if Michigan started panicking.