NEW ORLEANS — Kentucky owns the Bluegrass State. Now it can concentrate on the rest of the country.

Anthony Davis and top-seeded Kentucky will play for the national title Monday night after finally putting away pesky Louisville 69-61 in the Final Four on Saturday night.

It will be Kentucky’s first appearance in the title game since winning a seventh NCAA championship in 1998 and gives Coach John Calipari another shot at the title that has eluded him. The Wildcats (37-2) will face Ohio State or Kansas.

As the final seconds ticked down, Davis pointed to the court and screamed twice, “This is my stage!”

Yes, yes, it is.

With Davis leading a star-studded roster, Kentucky was the top seed in the tournament and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets when the whole tournament was done. And Calipari wouldn’t let his young players consider anything else, saying repeatedly this was “just another game.”

But playing in-state rival Louisville (30-10) is never just that, and the Cardinals made Kentucky work deep into the second half to grind this victory out.

Louisville outrebounded Kentucky 40-33, including a whopping 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass — the sole reason the Cardinals were able to make a game of this.

“I just said ‘John, I’ll be pulling for you, bring the trophy back home to Kentucky,’ ” Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said. “Sometimes there’s talk about these guys fighting, dialysis, there’s also really a lot of people that get along. For those that have brains, they root for each other.

“We like their basketball team; we hope they bring it home.”

Bigger, bulkier and with Davis having a wide wingspan, the Wildcats looked like playground bullies as they pushed Louisville around on their way to a 13-point lead early in the second half.

But the Cardinals know about rallies after coming from 11 down to beat Florida in last weekend’s West Regional final, and they made Kentucky sweat.

Russ Smith made back-to-back buckets to start a 15-3 run, and Peyton Siva capped it with a 3-pointer from NBA range that made it 49-49 with 9:11 to play. But Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who played just 23 minutes because of foul trouble, made back-to-back buckets to give the Wildcats some breathing room.

After Siva made a pair of free throws, Terrence Jones scored on a jumper and Darius Miller drilled a 3 — only Kentucky’s second of the game — to give the Wildcats control for good.

“I’m proud of this team. They’re coming together,” Calipari said. “They’ve taken on shots and runs like Louisville did today and they’ve held their own, so I’m proud of them.”

Just to make sure Louisville didn’t get notions about another late comeback, Kidd-Gilchrist threw down a monstrous dunk with 1:05 to play.

Kentucky shot a dazzling 57 percent with Davis leading the way. He missed just one of his eight shots, and finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Miller added 13 points and Doron Lamb had 10. Kidd-Gilchrist had nine, all in the second half.

“We’re one game closer to our dream and our goals,” Davis said.

Siva led the Cardinals with 11 points. Gorgui Dieng had 12 rebounds.

The rivalry caused tempers to flare even in December when, in the grand scheme of things, games really don’t mean much. Heck, it took government intervention just to get the two schools to play on a regular basis back in the 1980s.

With the NCAA title game on the line, senior citizens actually came to fisticuffs.

“Our fans are great to us,” Davis said. “Our fans travel a long way. We want to go out here and give them a show and give them what they want, which is a national championship.”

Bragging rights in the state is a nice way to start.

Kentucky is 19-11 since the teams resumed playing in 1983-84, with the Wildcats winning four straight, including a 69-62 victory at Rupp Arena on Dec. 31 — almost the exact score as Saturday night’s win.

“They made runs and we made our runs. That’s what Coach always says,” Jones said. “We never get rattled.”

The Wildcats know they’re talented — there are three, maybe as many as five NBA lottery picks on the roster — but they play without ego or cockiness.

That was certainly the case against Louisville.

The Cardinals had skidded into the Big East tournament with four losses in their last six games, including back-to-back defeats to end the regular season. Pitino told his players they could go home after the first week of the tournament or do something special, their choice.

The Cardinals then ripped off four wins in four days to win the Big East tournament and ousted No. 1 seed Michigan State in the West Regional semifinals. Then came that comeback against rough-and-tumble Florida.

But then came Kentucky.

“Any time you don’t know whether a team is better offensively or defensively, you know you’ve got a great basketball team,” Pitino said.

“And Anthony Davis is incredible.”