LEXINGTON, Ky. — They did it again. Kentucky and Wichita State reprised their 2014 roles on Sunday afternoon and staged another absolute classic second-round NCAA Tournament battle. And the result was the same, but the score different: Wildcats 65, Shockers 62.
Freshman star Malik Monk blocked a go-ahead 3-point try with 13.8 seconds left and sank two free throws with 10 ticks remaining, then fellow rookie Bam Adebayo rejected Wichita State’s tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Second-seeded Kentucky (31-5) advances to its sixth Sweet 16 in eight years under coach John Calipari.
The Wildcats will face the Cincinnati-UCLA winner in Memphis, Tenn., where Calipari coached the hometown Tigers to a national championship game before bolting for Lexington. Getting back there was not easy. The 10th-seeded Shockers (31-5) were ranked No. 6 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s advanced statistical ratings at tip-off — and they played like it.
Player of the game
Adebayo entered Sunday’s showdown on a rebounding bender, but Wichita State big man Darral Willis Jr. declared the day before: “That’s getting shut down tomorrow.” It did not, in fact, get shut down. Adebayo recorded his second straight double-double and fifth in the last nine games — 13 points and 10 rebounds — and threw down a series of vicious dunks. Then, of course, the clinching blocked shot. Quite an answer.
Stat line of the game
Derek Willis’ last stand has been something to witness. The in-state senior came up clutch against the Shockers: 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and a block. His corner 3-pointer and steal on the other end helped (briefly) break the game open for Kentucky in the final nine minutes Sunday.
Kentucky’s lead was just four with 4:23 to go in the game when Fox sank a free throw, swiped a steal and soared for an emphatic dunk. The margin ballooned to 58-51 in just 14 seconds. The Cats needed every bit of that cushion, as it turned out.
What’s next for Kentucky basketball
The Wildcats wait for the Cincinnati-UCLA winner. They last played the Bearcats in the 2015 NCAA Tournament (a victory) and last met the Bruins at Rupp Arena in December (a loss).
Kentucky vs. Wichita State box score