The Kentucky Wildcats got a major test in their first NCAA Tournament game.
But despite a strong push from Davidson, UK was able to hold on for a hard-fought 78-73 win. They’ll now advance to Saturday’s action against the winner of tonight’s Buffalo vs Arizona game.
Here are three things to know:
Kentucky thrives inside, struggles from deep
The streak is shockingly over. Kentucky had made a 3-pointer in 1,047 straight games, and that run is now over. UK shot 0 for 6 from deep tonight.
UK’s hot 3-point shooting from the SEC Tournament did not carry over. They did, however, show some muscle inside and succeed on non-3-point attempts. UK shot 58 percent from inside the 3-point line.
Knox drove UK’s offensive success. Despite going 0 for 3 from 3-point range, he went 8 for 13 inside the 3-point line as he found his groove from mid range.
The Cats failed to hit a 3-pointer for the first time since 1988, but somehow still managed to win.
Meanwhile, Davidson shot the 3-pointer a bit worse than everyone thought it would, but it was far better than UK was from deep. Davidson shot 33 percent from 3-point range.
Kentucky’s rebounding became key
With Davidson’s ability to slow the game down, hit shots and force Kentucky to play a style its not used to, it was going to be important for UK to limit Davidson to one shot per possession and get back the other way. UK got at it on the defensive glass, outrebounding Davidson 36-27, which included a defensive rebound margin of +10 for UK. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a team-high eight rebounds. Knox was behind him with six.
Free throws on free throws
One great way to ensure a win is to make more free throws than your opponent attempts, and Kentucky used that to their advantage tonight. UK went 26 for 32 from the free-throw line, while Davidson went 14 for 17 from the stripe.
Gilgeous-Alexander impressed again from the stripe, going 9 for 10 from the line. Knox also went 8 for 10 from the foul line. That was a difference-maker in a game that UK sweated out until the final minutes.
Now, let’s take a deep breath and talk about the win.