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Kentucky Basketball: Four things to know from the win over NKU

The Norse fought back and kept it close, but the Cats prevailed and will move on.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kentucky vs Northern Kentucky Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not the first time I’ve said it this year, but that was closer than it should’ve been.

The NKU Norse weren’t scared, and when Kentucky let off the gas they came hard at the Cats’ commanding lead. They cut it down to single digits and threatened the Cats late. John Calipari didn’t seem too happy, as he continued coaching and yelling at his guys throughout.

But a win is a win, and Fox and Adebayo headlined the “good things” that happened in this round. Here are four things to know from Kentucky’s 79-70 win over NKU.

NKU didn’t play scared

They might’ve been outmatched, but they didn’t run away from the challenge. The Cats and Norse traded buckets early on, with the Norse cutting the lead to two points well into the first half.

However, Kentucky stayed grounded and pushed the lead to 14 by halftime. Even though Kentucky held the lead the rest of the way, NKU kept them on their toes, even cutting the lead down to seven points with 30 seconds left in the game.

They posed a threat inside and hit some open threes. It was as if they had no idea that they were playing Kentucky, or that they were down double-digits.

De’Aaron Fox was the star we needed him to be

Fox separated himself from the pack and stepped out as the leader of the Cats in the SEC Tournament, and he showed his star power again tonight. He had 19 points, going 8-15 from the field. He also had three assists, two rebounds and two blocks. He did a little bit of everything, and put together some great highlight plays in transition (as usual).

Adebayo stuffed the stat sheet

With 15:44 left in the second half, Bam Adebayo already had a double-double. He single-handedly kept the Cats ahead of the Norse in the rebounding battle. He set a career-high in boards with 18, which was over 13 of the Cats’ rebounds. He also had 15 points, recording another double-double.

He was much-needed tonight, as NKU fought hard, but it was hard to beat Adebayo’s size and strength inside.

Wichita State’s up next

This win brings us a rematch of the 2014 Round of 32, when Kentucky ended the Shockers’ perfect season. On paper it’s clear that the Cats are the better team, but the Shockers will have a chip on their shoulder; they were disrespected by the committee when they were set as a No. 10 seed, and they could have revenge on their minds this time around. Last time the Cats broke the hearts of the Shockers; let’s hope it’s not the other way around this time. The Cats will certainly have to play better than they did on Friday if they want to avoid an upset.