The Kentucky Wildcats got their NCAA Tournament run started off against Abilene Christian. However, they were without PJ Washington as he was sidelined with an injury.
The Cats got off to a great start as they used their size advantage to build a quick 8-0 lead.
The Cats played very solid defense throughout the first half. At the under 12 minute timeout, they held ACU to just three points leading 18-3.
It was a big half for Reid Travis. The senior forward had 12 points and 4 rebounds before his second foul sent him to the bench.
The Cats closed the half strong and held the Wildcats to the fewest points they have ever allowed in the first half of an NCAA Tournament game in school history and lead 39-13.
UK spent the second half taking care of the ball and closing this one out.
ACU did come out strong in the second half and scored at a much more efficient rate, but Kentucky had the 48-25 lead.
A Jemarl Baker three with just over nine minutes to play extended the Cats’ lead to thirty at 61-31.
With such a big lead, it was apparent coach Cal wanted to work on their half court sets down the stretch as they didn’t get out in transition as much and set up their half court offense.
Despite an injury scare with Nick Richards, the Cats closed the game out strong and rolled to a 79-44 victory.
Thoughts On the Game
Keldon Johnson stepped up
We all knew that UK needed Johnson to be playing at a high level to make a deep run, especially with PJ out, and he got it started in a big way.
The freshman finished with 25 points and 6 rebounds, as he was in attack mode all game. He was shooting it well from the outside and taking it to the rim.
If Johnson plays like this throughout the tournament, UK will be very hard to beat.
Keldon Johnson crossover to the cup. pic.twitter.com/S4PJX3Cccg— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 21, 2019
Keldon Johnson drains the 3 off the kickout by Ashton Hagans. pic.twitter.com/qobRIplv0L— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 22, 2019
Reid Travis has big tourney debut
Coming into this game, Travis had never played an NCAA Tournament game, and you could tell he was ready for it.
He had 18 points, 9 rebounds, and an assist. He was virtually unstoppable as no one on ACU could match his size and strength in the post.
Reid Travis being a monster tonight. pic.twitter.com/otBI1cdoUj— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 21, 2019
Travis was a beast all night and made a big impact in his tournament debut. This team needed him back, and he showed the beast he can be down low.
With PJ out, it’s clear that Travis is UK’s go-to man in the paint going forward, and he came up big in this one.
People forget Travis was an all-conference performer at Stanford due mainly to his offense, as he was scoring over 19 points per game. He’s taken a backseat to others in terms of offense, but with PJ out, the ball is being fed to Travis a lot more like his days at Stanford, and he’s thriving with the opportunity.
Tyler Herro continued his hot shooting.
Herro has been on a tear here recently and this one was no different as he filled the stat sheet. He had 14 points on 7/12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. His impact went under the radar a little bit with the dominance of Travis and Johnson.
However, Herro had a very balanced performance and hopefully he will keep it up the rest of the tournament.
Tyler Herro making the left hander off glass look easy once again. pic.twitter.com/Wo8AgWTU3g— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 21, 2019
Tyler Herro one bounce rise and fire. pic.twitter.com/tzTAtGuMhX— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 21, 2019
Kentucky dominated the boards
We all knew that the Cats had the size advantage over ACU, and they made it count on the glass.
Kentucky won the rebound battle 44-17, turning boards into multiple second chance opportunities on offense as they had 14 offensive rebounds.
It was a dominating performance on the glass and that will go a long way to helping the Cats keep winning throughout the tournament.
Nice rebound and putback by Nick Richards with the left hand. pic.twitter.com/0MQ9dMGpSq— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 22, 2019
Kentucky appears to have avoided disaster with Nick
The absolute last thing Kentucky could afford in this game was an injury to another big man. Even with the game well at hand, the Cats were forced to play several starters and key backups due to the lack of depth on the bench, which was made worse with PJ being out.
That’s why Nick Richards was in the game later than you’d expect, and he nearly suffered a devastating injury in the final minutes:
DIRTY. AS. HELL. pic.twitter.com/rL7Yujx3NT— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 22, 2019
If Richards were to miss time, Kentucky would be down to just Travis and EJ Montgomery in the paint. That’s a scary thought against anyone, even a smaller team like Wofford. Let’s hope Richards is ok and able to play at full strength Saturday.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 28-6 overall. Abilene Christian is 27-7.
- This was the first meeting between the teams.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats take on the winner of tonight’s Wofford vs. Seton Hall game.
- UK has never played Wofford.
- Seton Hall leads the UK series 2-1, including an 84-83 overtime win on Dec. 8 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started the combination of Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery and Reid Travis for the first time.
- Kentucky jumped out to an 8-0 lead, and after an ACU 3-pointer, a 10-point spurt made it 18-3.
- UK closed the half on an 11-0 run and went to halftime ahead 39-13.
- It is the fewest points allowed by UK in a half in an NCAA Tournament game.
- It is the fewest points allowed by UK in a half in any game since limiting UCLA to seven points in the first half on Dec. 20, 2014.
In the Second Half
- UK had a 10-0 run, going from 56-31 to 66-31.
- UK led by as many as 36 points on two occasions, 70-34 and 79-43.
- Kentucky limited Abilene Christian to 44 points. UK is 74-0 under Calipari when holding the opponent to 55 points or less, including 10-0 this season.
- UK is 171-7 (.961) under Calipari when limiting the opponent to 63 points or less, including 19-0 this season.
- ACU shot 32.1 percent from the field. UK is 180-15 (.923) under Calipari when keeping the opponents to 40 percent or less, including 16-0 this season.
- UK shot 53.6 percent from the field. UK is 14-1 this season when making at least half its shots.
- Kentucky won the rebounding, 44-17. UK is 23-4 this season when outrebounding the opponent.
- The +27 rebounding margin helped UK win second-chance points 24-2.
- UK dominated points in the paint, 40-20.
In the NCAA Tournament
- Kentucky has an all-tine record of 127-51 in the NCAA Tournament, more wins than any team in NCAA Tournament history.
- UK is making its NCAA record 58th appearance in the tournament.
- UK is 23-7 as the No. 2 seed in the tournament. UK is 8-0 vs. No. 15 seeds.
- UK is 29-7 in the NCAA Tournament under Calipari.
- Keldon Johnson led all scorers with 25 points, trailing only his career-high 27 vs. Tennessee State.
- He made 3-of-5 on 3-pointers. UK is 6-0 when Johnson makes at least three 3-pointers.
- Reid Travis totaled 18 points and nine rebounds. It is his most points since tallying 18 vs. Kansas on Jan. 26.
- Tyler Herro notched 14 points and five rebounds.
- E.J. Montgomery had three points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
- It is his second double-figure rebounding game of the season, also 13 vs. South Carolina.
- Jemarl Baker had a career-high seven points.
- PJ Washington sat out the game with a sprained foot.
- Calipari is now 303-70 at UK.
- Calipari has a 748-210 all-time on-court record.
- Calipari has a 54-18 record in the NCAA Tournament.
- UK is 246-40 vs. unranked competition under Calipari, and has won the last 14 in a row.