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Defense does the job as Kentucky beats Wofford 62-56

PJ Washington celebrates Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Think about this — Kentucky missed its last six shots and seven of last eight and did not have a field goal the final 5 minutes, 12 seconds. Yet the Cats still beat Wofford 62-56 in the NCAA Tournament second round because of its defense that forced Wofford to miss six of last seven shots.

Welcome to the survive and advance mentality of March Madness.

Wofford star Fletcher Magee, the all-time NCAA leader in 3-pointers made, went 0-for-12 from 3-point range in large part because of the harassing defense of UK freshman Tyler Herro. That energy took a toll on Herro’s offense as he was 2-for-11 from the field but he still had nine points, six rebounds and four assists. He also went 4-for-4 at the foul line, including two with 4.2 seconds left, to secure the win.

“My hope is they got wore down,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Wofford. “We knew they would not let down because that is how they play.”

Kentucky got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Reid Travis — playing in his first NCAA Tournament. Ashton Hagans had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal. Hagans was just 4-for-11 from the field as Wofford let him fire away from outside before he started concentrating on going inside.

“They were collapsing inside but I still had to drive and finish or kick it out to a teammate,” Hagans said.

Kentucky played again without leading scorer/rebounder PJ Washington, who is out with a sprained foot. CBS-TV sideline reporter Jamie Erdhal at Friday’s practice that he heard something “pop” in his foot with about two minutes left in the game against Tennessee last Saturday. He finished the game but during the NCAA selection show the foot began to swell while he was at Calipari’s house. He told her he’s hoping he can play next week when UK plays in the Sweet Sixteen Friday in Kansas City.

Calipari would have not part of it being a “relief” to be in the Sweet Sixteen, especially with Washington not playing.

“If winning is a relief, it is time to retire,” Calipari said. “I may not be showing it right now but I was dancing in the locker room. I am ecstatic that we won. I just want my team in the hunt and playing their best.”

11 comments

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  1. Mike, if it wasn’t for Nick and our bench we wouldn’t have won this game. I’m telling you it’s the little things that makes the difference how we won the game and Nick did that.

  2. I thought a win was supposed to feel good. My stomach still somewhat in knots. This just does not feel like UK basketball. Our defense was outstanding and offense pathetic. Did we win the game or did Magee lose it? That guy is something else and so is that team. I thought they actually had better game plan than we did and also had better passing and movement than we did especially in first half. If Magee hit anywhere near his usual % we lose the game especially when Herro drawing blanks as well. EJ and Nick still liabilities on offense. I cringe whenever either gets their hands on the ball because normally something bad is going to happen.

    1. Mike you are just an unhappy guy who regardless of the out come has to be negative. Dooped by Stoops. He made no threes because we covered him with a blanket. If you actually knew anything about bb you would know that Hero’s effort to shut Magee down left him tired on the offensive end. A very normal and expected result. With no PJ and Keldon and Hero off there game and we still beat a team with 31 wins. We even covered the spread. There is nothing wrong with this win but your comments.

      1. UKFAM…give me a break. Both Herro amf Magee were well covered on defense but both also had off nights. Let’s not act like poor shooting caused by defense only.

        1. Mike is right on this point. Tyler played great defense but was so focused on staying with McGee that it did affect his offense. McGee knew he was being contained and focused on doing the same to Tyler and that affected his offense as well. They cancelled each other out for the most part. Keldon could not get in a groove and got some questionable fouls called on him to further add to his funk. He will bounce back and Tyler’s offense will be back too. Ashton played the best game of the season. He proved that he could be a scorer even though his 3 point shot was off. Jemarl really stepped up and it was needed since Immanuel’s game has taken a step back. Reid was solid and the EJ/Nick stat line wasn’t great but it was good enough. Any win in the Big Dance is a good win, but the Terriers aren’t nearly as good as the teams we will face from here on. We definitely showed the will to win yesterday, but we will have to play better on the offensive end to advance to Minneapolis.

  3. Or Lord Mike I don’t what you are looking for, that perfection game isntgonna happen my friend. We play great defense today especially the second half and that what save us. CAL put a great plan to shut down therr game plan with the rotation he put in. It was a team effort .

    1. Amen Cats79. Mike is never going to give UK any credit, even in a hard fought win. Why do you think Magee had a bad day Mike? I don’t know why you even watch UK games. For one thing a guy that averages about 20 points a game for UK was on the bench. He is a lot of the UK offense. Cats79 is right, UK shut Magee down big time. The UK defense carried the day. Wofford is a great team, but UK beat em fair and square. Sounds like you were upset Wofford lost. Geez Mike, ease up and just enjoy a win every now and then. Life is to short.

      1. You got it right LP. Survive and advance.

  4. Wofford is an excellent team, and for a bunch of freshmen to refuse to lose, was outstanding. Losing Washington and still winning was really impressive in my way of thinking. Coach Cal has done one hell of a job-Go Cats!

    1. I am on the It Was a Good Win bandwagon, too. Team had chance to fold and it didn’t

  5. Three Cheers for the Cats !!!
    Congrats on a hard fought win.

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