The Kentucky Wildcats surged into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen with a pair of dominating victories at the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville this past weekend. Wildcat faithful filled downtown and had the Birds Nest hopping in Kentucky’s 81-66 win over Western Kentucky and 87-71 win over Iowa State.
Kentucky will now get a rematch with the Indiana Hoosiers on Friday night in the Georgia Dome for the opportunity to advance to the South Region finals.
It can be safely said that there was no lingering effect from the lackluster performance at the SEC Tournament last weekend. While many Cats fans fretted over the lack of urgency against LSU and the loss to Vanderbilt, all was forgotten as Kentucky raced out to an 8-0 lead over Western. The Hilltoppers fought back, but a pair of runs by the Cats in the last 10 minutes of the first half gave UK a 45-26 halftime advantage and they never looked back.
UK surged to a 32 point lead at 74-42 with a little less than nine minutes left in the game en route to their 33rd win of the season. Terrence Jones continued his string of excellent play and went 9-of-13 from the field to lead four Wildcats in double figures with 22 points while collecting 10 rebounds for a double-double. Doron Lamb had 16 points as did Anthony Davis while Marquis Teague had 12 points.
Overall, it was exactly the kind of performance expected by the #1 overall seed over a 16-seed, and after the SEC Tournament disappointment, it was exactly what UK needed. In rolling the Hilltoppers in the fashion they did, UK also quieted most doubters who were questioning what was wrong with the team after the SEC Tournament.
On Saturday, the Wildcats were also impressive in defeating Iowa State. While many in the national media, including Bobby Knight and Digger Phelps, thought UK may get beat, Kentucky denied any naysayers a reason to question them after thoroughly dismantling the Cyclones.
Teague had his best game as a Wildcat and led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting while also handing out 7 assists. Darius Miller had 19 points while Doron Lamb had 16 on 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Anthony Davis had 15 points and 12 rebounds while Jones had 8 points and 11 rebounds while getting three assists and two blocked shots.
In all, this was perhaps the best game the Wildcats have played all season, and Kentucky head coach John Calipari said as much after the game. Cats fans and the Wildcats had the arena rocking in what has been described as one of the loudest NCAA tournament venues ever by national media.
Now its off to the Sweet Sixteen and a rematch with the Indiana Hoosiers. I’ll talk more about this game as the week goes on, but we all know that until the Vanderbilt loss the Hoosiers were the sole black mark on an otherwise amazing season. Indiana is good. Tom Crean is a great coach and a good friend of Calipari’s. The Hoosiers have one of the great traditions in college basketball, and the game is better when they are good. In another year or two, they could be legitimate national title contenders.
But not this year. Kentucky players have been mad since getting beat in December, and they have been reminded of it countless times in an ESPN commercial. Revenge can be a great motivator, but that won’t be the only one. I believe this UK team is one of destiny and am as confident as I have ever been that they will cut the nets down in two weeks. There’s just something about their makeup-they are warriors, competitors, and genuinely look at their teammates as their brothers.
UK opened as a 9 point favorite. I don’t think it will be that close. Indiana won’t beat Kentucky.
And neither will anyone else. Go Cats!go back