Overview: Kentucky was built for the Final Four and a national title.
Now the Wildcats have their shot. Kentucky is 40 minutes away from their stated goal of a trip to New Orleans.
The Wildcats withstood plenty of charges from an Indiana team that never quit. But Kentucky proved to have too many options offensively. Whenever it seemed like Indiana was going to go on a significant run, someone else would make a play.
Kentucky had tremendous balance and loaded up the stat sheet en route to a 102-point effort, though defense was lacking at times as Indiana scored 90. The Wildcats and Hoosiers are the only teams to score at least 90 points during the tournament.
Kentucky always had the ability to be one of the most impressive teams offensively and finally showed it Friday night. This was the Wildcats' second-highest scoring game of the season (behind a 108-point effort against Marist) and the first time Kentucky has scored 90 points or more in the Sweet 16 since scoring 94 against UCLA in 1998.
The Kentucky-Baylor game is exactly the matchup that should have been in this regional. Even though Duke was the No. 2 seed in the South, Baylor was clearly the better team.
If you enjoyed this matchup, then get ready for an even better one Sunday.
Key player: Darius Miller had moments of being the ultimate glue guy with key buckets, whether he was facing the basket or slicing to the hoop. But the difference maker Friday night was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG seemed to be in the right spot at the most opportune times and was creating opportunities for himself. Indiana could not contain him. MKG finished with 24 points and 10 boards. He didn’t miss a free throw, either, converting all 10. MKG’s work ethic is hard to match. He plays every possession as if it were his last.
Key stat: The Wildcats got to the free throw line a ton. Indiana did not. Kentucky was creating the contact and Kidd-Gilchrist and Lamb were the biggest beneficiaries. Neither missed a free throw. This was not a case of poor officiating. Rather, the Wildcats forced Indiana to foul. Kentucky was the aggressor throughout the second half. The Wildcats finished shooting 35-of-37 at the free throw line. MKG was a perfect 10-of-10 and Lamb was 8-of-8. Marquis Teague was 6-of-6 and Darius Miller was 5-of-5. Meanwhile, Indiana was 13-of-17. Kentucky’s free throw percentage (94.6 percent) was the highest in NCAA history with a minimum of 35 attempts (surpassing North Carolina's 91.7 percent in 1977), according to the NCAA. It was the most made free throws in a tournament game since Ohio State made 35 against Memphis in 2007.
Turning point:Anthony Davis had been battling foul trouble and a pestering Indiana front line. But the four-award national player of the year winner (he has two more to go) blocked a shot and then converted an offensive rebound at the other end to give the Wildcats a 79-66 lead. The Wildcats would still have to deal with a pesky Indiana, but Davis’ assertion as a dominant presence sent a strong message. The consecutive plays was a huge lift for Kentucky and a bit deflating for the Hoosiers. Indiana cut the lead under 10, but Miller helped stretch it back out to a manageable number. The Hoosiers lost Victor Oladipo to five fouls with more than four minutes left, which ended up being a critical blow.
What’s next: Top-ranked Kentucky takes on No. 3-seeded Baylor in a highly-anticipated Elite Eight matchup. The length and athleticism of both teams on display should provide quite a treat. If the officials let the teams play, this could be one of the most entertaining games we’ve seen at this stage in the tournament. It has a chance to rival that Arizona-Illinois Elite Eight game from 2005.