NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Day 2: Jayhawks D Scores Big
(1) Kentucky Wildcats, 102, (4) Indiana Hoosiers, 90
After losing its only regular season game to the Indiana Hoosiers, the Wildcats got revenge when it mattered most, defeating the Hoosiers, 102-90. In this rematch, virtually no defense would be played. The teams combined for 192 points and better than 50 percent shooting.
The Wildcats came out of the gates with great offensive intensity, converting seven of their first 10 attempts. For their part, the Hoosiers stayed close, as they, too, put up points early and often.
Much of the game was played with an up-tempo, frenetic pace. In addition to generating excitement for the fans, the fast pace caused four starters to pick up two fouls apiece rather early in the contest. Freshman phenom Anthony Davis was sent to the bench with early foul trouble, as were Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo. The three Hoosiers returned later in the first half to spark the Hoosiers, but Davis remained on the pine for the final 15 minutes of the half.
In Davis’ absence, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist each turned in big first half performances. For the Hoosiers, Christian Watford scored 17 first half points on a variety of shots.
Watford managed to score 10 more points in the second half, but was not nearly as efficient as he was in the opening half. In addition to both teams making a good percentage of their shots, Kentucky was especially effective in getting to the free throw line, where it made a remarkable 35-37 for nearly 95 percent. In the process, Kentucky was able to foul out Oladipo and Indiana’s hero against Virginia Commonwealth, Will Sheehey. Thanks to Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, the Wildcats outrebounded the Hoosiers by nine.
Interestingly enough, Davis only scored six points in the Wildcats’ first meeting with the Hoosiers earlier this season. Once again, Davis failed to reach double digits against Indiana, but he did add three blocks and 12 rebounds Friday night.
As a result of solid inside play and many easy looks, Kentucky opened up a 79-66 lead with 8:54 remaining. Behind an 11-3 run spurred by six Zeller points and three Hulls assists, Indiana pulled within five at 82-77. However, from that point on, Kentucky continued to attack the basket and essentially lived at the free throw line.
The Wildcats will advance to the Elite Eight, where they will meet the No. 3 seed Baylor Bears. The winner will win the South Region and a trip to New Orleans for the Final Four.
FYI: NFL coaches and brothers Jim and John Harbaugh were in attendance at the Georgia Dome Friday night. Their sister is married to Indiana coach Tom Crean. Just as the younger Harbaugh’s 49ers fell short of signing Peyton Manning, his brother-in-law just missed a spot in the Elite Eight. The Hoosiers played really well, but they ran into the best team in the tournament. What could they have done?
(2) Kansas Jayhawks, 60, (11) North Carolina State Wolfpack, 57
More than five minutes into the game, Kansas had only scored three points and converted a single field goal. Despite the Jayhawks’ 13-3 deficit, they were easily able to catch up to the Wolfpack, which shot a chilly 33 percent from the field in the first half. Six-foot-ten junior forward Thomas Robinson had a dominant first half, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Still, the Wolfpack clung to a 33-32 lead at the half.
Kansas began the second half on a 9-2 run and maintained a five to nine-point lead over the Wolfpack for much of the half. But North Carolina St. was not ready to give up just yet. Thanks to some Kansas turnovers, good shooting by N.C. St. and the fouling of Indiana’s Scott Wood as he was attempting a three, the Wolfpack pulled within one with 1:22 to go. Kansas could not score, but Withey made a game-saving block on N.C. St. guard C.J. Leslie to give his team the ball once again.
After a bonus foul, Tyshawn Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the loose ball rebound was deflected off a member of the Wolfpack. Kansas guard Elijah Johnson scored on the possession, and N.C. St. never got a good look at a three-pointer for the tie.
For the game, the No. 2-seeded Jayhawks shot 37.5 percent, but compared with the Wolfpack’s shooting, that was pretty good. North Carolina St. shot a putrid 28.4 percent and was not able to score many points in the paint. Kansas center Jeff Withey rejected 10 Wolfpack shots, coming just one block shy of an NCAA record. Robinson also manned the middle, racking up 18 points and 15 rebounds, including six rebounds on the offensive end.
FYI: As the Midwest’s top two seeds meet Sunday, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams faces the school he coached for 15 seasons from 1988-2003. In 15 years as Kansas’ head coach, Williams never won a championship. However, in his ninth year as UNC’s lead man, he is looking to guide his team to a third national title.