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Kentucky blocked out the noise, then blocked Wichita State right out of the NCAA Tournament

Wichita State talked a big game before Sunday’s showdown, but Kentucky played the biggest.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Kentucky vs Wichita State
Bam Adebayo and Derek Willis continued to hold the fort down for Kentucky up front on Sunday in Indianapolis.
Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

“Offense brings the blue chip recruits, defense hangs banners.”

That was the final step to Kentucky’s five-step plan I personally drew up towards the ‘Cats winning a national championship.

De’Aaron Fox had a couple huge one-handed dunks in Kentucky’s 65-62 escape of a fiery Wichita State team during the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon, and one of those came off jumping the passing lane and breaking out to slam one home to send Big Blue Nation into a frenzy.

Malik Monk didn’t break completely out of his shooting slump, but he hit two humongous 3-pointers for the ‘Cats in the three-point victory. The shots will be noted, but it’s Monk’s block on Markis McDuffie with 13 seconds left (followed by two free throws on the other end) that helped Kentucky advance to their 25th Sweet 16 appearance in school history.

Bam Adebayo was told he was going to get shut down on Sunday afternoon against the Shockers and was the best player on the floor for either team, racking up his second double-double in as many NCAA Tournament games for Kentucky, but it was his combo defense with Dominique Hawkins on Landry Shamet that iced the victory.

Offense wins games, defense wins championships.

“We knew we couldn’t foul,” Monk said during Sunday’s post-game press conference when asked about his block. “We knew they was going to shoot a 3. Just play solid. I just contested well.”

The last thought is an understatement from Monk, who came into Sunday’s game with just 14 blocks on the season. Kentucky played tight man-to-man defense throughout the possession and with the shot clock winding down, Monk made a fantastic play.

(What shouldn’t be forgotten about this, too: Monk hit two clutch free throws on the other end after WSU fouled him.)

On the game’s final possession, Shamet looked to try and get off a 3-pointer that could tie the game for the Shockers, but like many times before Sunday, Dominique Hawkins (with a slight assist from Bam Adebayo) made a great defensive play and Adebayo’s block sealed the deal.

When I asked Hawkins about the final possession that sent the ‘Cats on to the Sweet 16 thanks to his and Adebayo’s defense, here’s what he said:

Hawkins, who had seven early points and finished 3-of-4 shooting on the day, was once again right in the thick of things defensively for the ‘Cats, which has been a common trend in their 13-game winning streak.

“We was just playing defense,” Adebayo said on the game-sealing block. “He pump faked, and I knew he had to shoot it so I just went up and tried to block it.”

As for Adebayo, he wasn’t shut down as Wichita State forward Darral Willis Jr. proclaimed he would be on Saturday during media availability. In fact, Adebayo was the best player on the floor and appeared to be in better shape than Gregg Marshall expected, scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and sent Kentucky on to Memphis next weekend with the block on Shamet.

In typical Bam fashion, he was modest, despite sticking out in a huge game once again.

“I just go out there and play basketball,” Adebayo said when asked about the trash-talking before the game on Sunday.

“Trash-talking is not for me. I just stick with my teammates and we get things done. We fight, we play hard, we go out there and just play.”

His teammates picked up the slack on mentioning the pre-game trash talk and so did Adebayo’s mother, who probably had the best soundbite of the entire weekend.

Wichita State poked the Bam ... er, bear.

And they got shut down because of it.

Notes from Kentucky advancing to the Sweet 16:

  • Kentucky will get another crack at Steve Alford and the UCLA Bruins in Friday’s Sweet 16 showdown in the bottom portion of the South Region down in Memphis. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:39 p.m. ET on CBS. The Bruins beat the ‘Cats in a 97-92 thriller back in December.
  • Derek Willis not only joined the Kentucky block party on defense, he might have had the most savage moment of the entire NCAA Tournament when he answered Darral Willis Jr.’s trash talk from Saturday.

Oh, the savagery. Willis also had nine points and eight rebounds in the three-point win.

  • Bam Adebayo’s 28 rebounds in Indianapolis this weekend were the most total rebounds by a Kentucky player in his first two NCAA Tournament games in school history. Nobody could shut the big man down.
  • Kentucky is now 146-5 under John Calipari when UK’s opponents score 63 points or less in a game. Wichita State scored 62 on Sunday. Kentucky’s 65 points was the lowest amount of points they’ve scored in a game this season, but they improved to 7-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament games played in Indianapolis.
  • When Kentucky takes the floor this coming Friday, it’ll be in a bit of a familiar environment for Coach Cal.