The Cats defeated ninth-seeded Kansas State, 56-49, late Friday night in the the second round of the NCAA tournament. Kentucky showed some flaws and struggled to put the game away in the end, but in March, it’s all about surviving and advancing to the next round. And that they did.
Julius Randle led the way for UK with 19 points and 15 rebounds, his 21st career double-double of the season, while Aaron Harrison backed him up offensively with 18 of his own. Andrew Harrison was a little turnover prone at the point but he did dish out five assists and, luckily, still has a functional right arm.
Let’s run through some quick takeaways before we call it a night and move on to the next opponent, the 35-0 Shockers of Wichita State.
First and foremost, Andrew Harrison is going to be OK.
It was all rainbows and butterflies in the final minute until Andrew Harrison ran to the Kentucky bench holding his right arm. A replay showed a a nasty bend at the elbow as he swiped at a Kansas State player attempting a late, meaningless bucket. Everyone in Big Blue Nation collectively held their breath, wondering if he was squinting from the pain or squinting because he’s Andrew Harrison.
In the locker room he told reporters it’s pretty sore but he believes he’ll be fine. “I think I hyperextended it,” he said.
Willie Cauley-Stein is a game-changer when he’s on.
We learned in the comeback against Florida last Sunday just how important Willie Cauley-Stein is to this team. When he’s active defensively and protecting the rim, opposing teams struggle offensively. That was the case tonight as the big man blocked four shots and altered no telling how many more, forcing Kansas State to rely on jumpers from the perimeter instead of penetrating.
After the game Willie took ownership of his midseason slump, saying he briefly lost focus as leader of the team, a role he accepted at the beginning of the season. Now he’s back and it’s the difference in how the team plays, he says.
I don’t disagree. This team will go as far as Willie will take them. No team in the tournament has an answer for him when he is at his best.
And did you know he played wide receiver in high school??? I swear!
Dakari Johnson: 0 points, 1 rebound
We can live with it when Willie is beasting.
UK held Kansas State well below its season average.
The Wildcats, the purple ones, entered Friday night’s game having scored almost 70 points per contest on the year. With one minute and 14 seconds to go in the game against Kentucky, a free throw by Wesley Iwundu gave K-State its 41st point of the night.
Kentucky wasn’t a whole lot better offensively, though, posting a similar percentage from the field with 38% to State’s 35.8%. Kentucky also turned the ball over more with 15 to State’s 10.
Survive and advance.
Julius Randle now has the UK freshman record for double-doubles.
With his 19 points and 15 rebounds, Julius Randle surpassed Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins for most double-doubles by a freshman. Randle caught a little flak in the first half for a bad sequence or two, and at times the offense runs better with him on the pine, but the kid has 21 double-doubles in 35 career games. Yes, his spin is frustrating, and yes, those two three-pointers early in the game were hideous, but he finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. That’s a man, people.
Not a great night for James Young.
I blame the Wanda Sykes hairdo for Young’s cold shooting night in St. Louis. The freshman took a team-high 13 shot attempts and connected on only three of those, and made a few bonehead plays throughout the night. (That inexcusable offensive foul really stands out.)
Young said he didn’t have a lot of confidence in his shot tonight. He noticed he was leaning back, an old habit, and he couldn’t get it going. That’ll need to change by Sunday.
Watch the players discuss the game…
From our friends at Kentucky Wildcats TV, of course.
Up next: Wichita State
I’ve been on the Wichita State bandwagon all season and I won’t lie to you, friends: the Shockers terrify me. They need to be respected. Kentucky will certainly have its hands full Sunday and we’ll have to hear all about the 40-0 talk leading up to the game. This may be the storyline the NCAA looked forward to the most when it drew up the bracket, and now it’s here. Time to take down the one seed and move on to Indy for that game we won’t speak of yet.
Beat the Shockers.
Goodnight and Go Cats.