But then the No. 1 overall seed in the field starting playing up to its pedigree — and Western Kentucky had no answer.
Facing the lone team sub-.500 team in the tournament, Kentucky asserted itself with size and unmatched skill, building a healthy halftime lead and rolling to an 81-66 victory.
Earlier in the day fellow No. 1 seed Syracuse had to sweat out the final moments of a 72-65 win over UNC-Asheville. Despite a back-and-forth start, the Wildcats faced no-such pressure. They blew open an early 12-12 tie with a 33-14 run to end the first half and never looked back.
Sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb led the way offensively with 22 and 16 points respectively and star freshman Anthony Davis flashed his all-around game with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.
Freshman guard T.J. Price led Western Kentucky with 21 points but could not ignite another second-half rally two nights after his team rallied from 16 down in the final five minutes to beat Mississippi Valley State in the First Four. The Wildcats put the clamps on Hilltoppers leading scorer Derrick Anderson (12 points), who was high school teammates with Kentucky freshman guard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
With Kentucky’s win, No. 1 seeds improved to 109-0 all-time against No. 16 seeds.
Box score: Kentucky, Western Kentucky
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