Saturday, March 19, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 71, WVU 63
By Mark Schlabach
TAMPA, Fla. -- Kentucky got its revenge and is headed back to the Sweet 16.
A year after West Virginia knocked the Wildcats out of the Elite Eight, No. 4 seed Kentucky returned the favor on Saturday, defeating the No. 5 seed Mountaineers 71-63 in an East Regional third-round game at St. Pete Times Forum.
Kentucky missed its first 20 3-point attempts against West Virginia’s 1-3-1 zone defense in a 73-66 loss last season. But freshman Brandon Knight knocked down a couple of early 3-pointers on Saturday, and then the Wildcats rallied from an eight-point deficit at the half before pulling away late.
Turning point: Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones tied the score at 55 on a dunk with about 6 ½ minutes to play. After a defensive stop, UK senior Josh Harrellson grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored a layup to make it 57-55. Then junior Darius Miller made his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 60-55 with 4:10 remaining.
Player of the game: Knight, who had been mired in a shooting slump, scored a career-high 30 points on 9-for-20 shooting. Knight, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., went 3-for-8 on 3-pointers and also had three rebounds and four assists. Knight scored 16 of UK’s 33 points in the first half.
Key stat: 2-8: Kentucky coach John Calipari’s record against West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
Miscellaneous: Harrellson, a seldom-used forward before this season, scored 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. He had to leave the game for a couple of minutes late, after being cut over his left eye. UK's Jones had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Joe Mazzulla, who had 17 points in last season’s win against the Wildcats, scored 20 on Saturday. He scored only five points in the second half, after UK junior DeAndre Liggins began guarding him.
What’s next: The Wildcats advance to next week’s East Region semifinals in Newark, N.J., where they will play the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 1 seed Ohio State and No. 8 seed George Mason. West Virginia finishes the season with a 21-12 record.