Another NCAA Tournament game, another sight of Kentucky Wildcats star PJ Washington on the bench in a hard cast.
Despite the adversity of playing without their star, Kentucky laced up their high-tops and took down the Wofford Terriers to advance onward into the Sweet 16 in Kansas City.
With the win, Kentucky proved their first round success without Washington wasn’t a fluke and that they’re truly a force to be reckoned with. However, their advancement also comes with the improvement of opposing competition.
Thankfully, the Wildcats will have a week of practice leading up the next round. For now, here are four things we learned from Kentucky’s 62-56 win over Wofford.
Wildcats Overcome Adversity, Again
Kentucky’s top scorer from Thursday night, Keldon Johnson, saw foul trouble throughout the entire game on Saturday against Wofford. Reid Travis appeared to be a little dinged up and, of course, PJ Washington remained on the bench with a cast on his foot.
However, those bumps wouldn’t throw Kentucky off their course to the Sweet 16 as the rest of head coach John Calipari’s unit stepped up and closed the deal.
The process wasn’t exactly a work of art, but the end result is all Kentucky needs as they’re four wins away from bringing home their ninth National Championship.
Offense Struggles in First Half
After Kentucky’s 79-point outburst on Friday, a step back against improved competition was expected come Saturday. However, Kentucky’s inability to make outside shots and dominate the painted area was stagnant throughout the first half.
The Wildcats posted just 28 points over the first 20 minutes and were fortunate to remain in the game, thanks to their defensive efforts holding Wofford at just 26 first half points.
Kentucky’s scoring picked up as the second half unfolded, which mirrored the Wildcats pulling away from the Terriers to officially assert their Sweet 16 bid.
Travis Continues to Big Play
Reid Travis filled the void left by PJ Washington and his sprained foot with a 18 point, nine rebound performance in Kentucky’s opening win over Abilene Christian. On Saturday, the graduate transfer sustained that excellence with a double-double of 14 points and 11 boards to will the Wildcats to victory.
Oh, and Travis hit two monster free throws with 18 seconds left to effectively ice the game.
Travis took an awkward hop midway through the second half, taking the breathe of almost everyone in the crowd. After a bit of stretching, he returned to action and didn’t miss a beat. Regardless if PJ Washington returns next weekend or not, Travis and his presence inside will be essential to Kentucky’s tournament success.
Hagans Facilitates a Gem
Freshman point guard Ashton Hagans didn’t shoot the ball well, but his impact on the game was as significant as anyone. The team’s floor general scored 12 points, dished out four assists and recorded a steal in the winning effort.
Hagans doesn’t have to be a star for this team to truly contend for a national title, but he does need to be consistent in regards to taking care of the basketball and pressuring the opposing team’s guards.
He did both on Saturday, playing a significant role in the Wildcats advancing to the Sweet 16.