Right from the tip, the Cats were playing excellent defense on the multiple shooters that Wofford has. The problem was the offense was a completely different story.
At the first timeout, the Cats trailed 8-4 after the slow start offensively.
Wofford would build up an 11-7 lead before Kentucky made a push and tied it at 11 on a Nick Richards dunk.
With 4 minutes left in the half, the Cats trailed 24-18, but that’s when the offense started to click. They rallied back, and two free throws by Reid Travis sent the Cats into the break with a 28-26 lead.
After the break, each team came out of the locker room executing better offensively, as they exchanged baskets as it was 37-37 with 15 minutes left.
Ashton Hagans would get fouled and make 1 of 2 at the line to put Kentucky up 38-37, and they wouldn’t lose the lead the rest of the way.
At the under 12 timeout, the Cats lead was 45-39, but Wofford wasn’t going to go away.
With 5:42 left to play, Wofford drilled a three to cut the Kentucky lead to three making it 54-51. However, Tyler Herro came back and knocked down a huge three to make it 57-51.
Kentucky failed to put the game away with a 4-point lead late, but their defense made up for it and they were able to eventually close it out and get the 62-56 win.
Thoughts on the game
Tyler Herro MVP
Coming into the game, all we heard about was Fletcher Magee and his three-point shooting ability. Well, Herro was assigned the task of guarding him and he couldn’t have done a better job.
Herro held Magee to 8 points and 0/12 from three. He chased him around the entire game and did a fantastic job.
Herro wasn’t as productive offensively, because he used all his energy on defense, but he made a huge three when they needed it most.
Tyler Herro pump fakes into the 3 pointer. pic.twitter.com/VbFHSqlH3T— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Jemarl Baker co-MVP
Baker has played some important minutes this season for the Cats, but none were more important than the minutes he played in this one.
He came in and had 8 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal. He also played excellent defense while he was on the floor and had a +/- of +17 in a game that was decided by six points.
Jemarl Baker defending his butt off. pic.twitter.com/s6ykj96LXv— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
The Jemarl Baker party continues. pic.twitter.com/qjsBrB5moy— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Because PJ has been out, that’d forced Kentucky to play more four-guard lineups, and that’s allowed Baker to get extended minutes So, if PJ returns for the Sweet 16, perhaps his injury was helpful in the long run in getting Baker confident and established into his role.
If he continues to play at such a high level, then that just adds to the depth this team has.
Reid Travis shines again
Reid Travis is now 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament, and Kentucky needed every bit of what he had to win their first two games. Ater going for 18 and nine vs ACU, Travis posted a double-double vs. Wofford with 14 points, 11 rebounds and a steal.
Kentucky knew they had the size advantage down low, and they had the strength advantage with Travis. He took advantage of that and helped UK overcome a bad offensive game to advance to the Sweet 16.
Without PJ, we all knew UK needed a big game from Travis, and he delivered.
Reid Travis with the nice drop step jump hook. pic.twitter.com/WhL8F5gLQh— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 23, 2019
Quickley still struggling
Dating back to the Tennessee loss in the SEC Tournament, it’s been a three-game stretch to forget for Immanuel Quickley. During that span, Quickley has hit just 2/13 shots, 0/4 three-pointers and committed two turnovers vs. two assists. That came after he went for 12 points on 4/4 shooting in the SEC Tournament win over Alabama.
Quickley has had some big moments for Kentucky this season, and it’s imperative that he gets his confidence back and is able to step up in Kansas City, especially if PJ is out. Him being out means UK needs good production from every scholarship player to advance, and that includes Quickley.
UK needs PJ back to make Final Four
This team survived the first weekend without their best player in PJ Washington. It was fr from easy, but the Cats stepped up and played lockdown defense Saturday to win a defensive slugfest. The offense clearly wasn’t the same without PJ, however, and they’ll need him back to keep up with teams like Houston and North Carolina.
Kentucky may be able to get past Houston (if they beat Ohio State), but it’s really hard to see them beating a North Carolina team that is vastly improved from where they were in December when UK beat them with PJ.
Hopefully, these were the only two games that they will be without him and he will be ready to go for the Sweet 16. You could tell how much the team missed him with their struggles on the offensive end, and if they can get him back, watchout.
Now, here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 29-6 overall. Wofford is 30-5, ending a 21-game winning streak.
- UK entered the game ranked No. 7 nationally and the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region.
- Wofford entered ranked No. 19 nationally and the No. 7 seed in the Midwest.
- This was the first meeting between the teams.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats advance to the Midwest Regional (Kansas City) on Friday against the winner of tomorrow’s Houston-Ohio State game.
In the First Half
- Kentucky started the combination of Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery and Reid Travis for the second straight game.
- Wofford grabbed an early 5-0 lead, and other than an 11-11 tie, the Terriers led until the final minute of the half.
- Trailing 24-18, UK closed the last three minutes of the half with a 10-2 run.
- UK got its first lead, 26-24, on a short Hagans jumper with 53 seconds left.
- Travis sent the Wildcats to intermission with a 28-26 lead on a pair of free throws with one second left.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky began the second half with the starting lineup.
- Trailing 35-32, Kentucky went on a 13-2 run for a 45-37 lead. UK never trailed again.
- With 8:42 left, two free throws by Herro gave the Wildcats their largest lead at 50-41.
- Wofford rallied but with 5:10 left Herro’s 3-pointer gave UK some breathing room at 57-51. It would prove to be UK’s final basket of the game.
- Wofford closed to within 58-56, but with 17.8 seconds remaining, Travis’ two free throws made it 60-56 and two more by Herro made it 62-56.
- Kentucky’s defense made the difference.
- Shooting over 49 percent from the field for the season, Wofford shot 37.5 percent today. UK is 181-15 (.923) under Calipari when keeping the opponents to 40 percent or less, including 17-0 this season.
- Shooting over 41 percent on 3-pointers for the season, Wofford shot 29.6 percent today.
- UK is 172-7 (.961) under Calipari when limiting the opponent to 63 points or less, including 20-0 this season.
- Kentucky won the rebounding, 36-30. UK is 24-4 this season when outrebounding the opponent.
- Free throws also were a significant factor. UK sent Wofford to the line only nine times, making six, while the Wildcats made 17-of-20 for 85 percent.
In the NCAA Tournament
- Kentucky has an all-time record of 128-51 in the NCAA Tournament, more wins than any team in NCAA history.
- UK is making its NCAA record 58th appearance in the tournament.
- UK is 24-7 as the No. 2 seed in the tournament. UK is 5-2 vs. No. 7 seeds.
- UK is 30-7 in the NCAA Tournament under Calipari.
- UK will be making its 27th NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, second-most in NCAA history. It is UK’s eighth in 10 seasons under Coach John Calipari, most of any team in the nation during that span. Calipari has made 12 of 14 Sweet 16s, dating to his time at Memphis.
- Reid Travis led the Wildcats with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
- He made 4-of-4 at the foul line, two key free throws at the end of each half.
- Ashton Hagans tallied 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.
- Tyler Herro didn’t have a great offensive day with nine points, but had a solid floor game with six rebounds and four assists.
- Made 4-of-4 free throws and has made 66 of his last 67 at the charity stripe.
- Jemarl Baker had back-to-back career-high games with eight points today after getting seven points vs. Abilene Christian.
- His 15 points over these two games are more than he scored in the previous 10 games combined (14).
- Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder, PJ Washington, sat out his second straight game with a sprained foot.
- Calipari is now 304-70 at UK.
- Calipari has a 749-210 all-time on-court record.
- Calipari has a 55-18 record in the NCAA Tournament.
- UK is 58-30 vs. ranked competition under Calipari.