One Down on the Road to #8

The Battle of the Bluegrass took place Thursday night in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in Louisville with the Wildcats taking on the Cardinals…wait a minute that’s not right. I know I saw the Governor, Louisville Cardinal paraphernalia all over the place, lots of Kentucky Fried Chicken for sale, and the opposition in red uniforms. But the sight of the KFC YUM! Center full of blue clad Kentucky fans reminded me that the Wildcats were facing off with the Hilltoppers for the chance to advance, not that other team that normally plays there.

The Cats jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, leaving the disappointment of the SEC Tournament title game in the rear view mirror, pushing the ball up the court at every opportunity. After a quick timeout, Western Kentucky went on a 12-0 run of their own, led by freshman T.J. Price to take the lead for the first and only time on the night. Kentucky continued the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act by closing the half with a scoring flurry to take a 45-26 lead into the break.

Terrence Jones made sure the Wildcats got off to a good start in the second half with thunderous fast break dunk. Kentucky controlled the second half by scoring easy baskets in the paint and building a 31 point advantage. Western managed to make the final score more respectable with a 20-5 run with the outcome already decided. Cats move on to Saturday’s third round 81-66.

Jones led the team in scoring with 22 points and 10 rebounds, continuing his improved play and becoming UK’s 59th member of the 1000 point club. When asked about the difference in his play of late, Coach Calipari said it was “just him being more aggressive.”

Anthony Davis flirted with a triple double scoring 16 points, gathering 9 rebounds, while breaking the Kentucky single game tournament block record with 7. Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague both scored in double figures as the team recovered from a poor shooting outing their last time out.

Overall it was the dominating opening performance everyone expected and a good start to what everyone hopes is a National Championship run. Kentucky will take on Iowa State Saturday night with the chance to move on to the Sweet 16. The Cyclones have a star in Royce White and is a team who likes to spread the floor and shoot the three. It will be very important for the Cats to play good perimeter defense and funnel the action into the paint where they will have an advantage.