Kentucky pulls away late, holds off Lipscomb

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- In a game decided by speed, Kentucky had more of it than Lipscomb on Monday night -- in good part because the Wildcats had Rajon Rondo.

Rondo scored a career-high 19 points and the Wildcats (No. 9 AP, No. 10 ESPN/USA Today) held off Lipscomb 67-49 in the second round of the Guardians Classic.

A 23-9 run during the final 10 minutes finally allowed Kentucky (2-0) to put away Lipscomb (1-1) and advance to the tournament semifinals next Monday in Kansas City, Mo. The Wildcats will play either No. 20 Iowa or Colgate, who meet in a second-round game Tuesday.

As he did in Kentucky's season opener on Sunday against South Dakota State, Rondo carried the Wildcats in all phases. The 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard led the team with seven rebounds and five assists and was named the most valuable player of the
tournament's four-team Lexington regional.

Against South Dakota State, Rondo had 17 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and six assists.

"As a point guard, you don't look at your scoring," Rondo said, "but I've had to do some of it the last few games. Whatever coach wants me to do. Last night he talked about rebounding so I tried to rebound. Tonight we were a little slow. We only had 30 points at halftime, so I needed to come out in the second half and be more aggressive on offense."

Lipscomb, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, finished 16-12 last season. The former NAIA basketball power, located in Nashville, Tenn., moved into NCAA Division I to start the 1999-2000 season. Since that time, Kentucky is by far the highest-profile
team to play the Bisons.

The Bisons took a 9-3 lead but scored only one basket during the next 11-plus minutes. Kentucky took advantage and led 22-11 at the 6-minute mark.

Lipscomb, though, closed to 30-22 by halftime and was as close as two points twice during the first eight minutes of the second half, at 36-34 and 38-36. The Bisons had two chances to tie or take the lead but missed a 3-point attempt and turned the ball over.

Still, the Bisons wouldn't go away, pulling to 44-40 with 10 minutes left on a basket by reserve swingman Eddie Ard, who scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 18 points in the second half. The Wildcats tried several defensive matchups in an attempt to stop Ard.

"It was like he was playing in his backyard and nobody was guarding him," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said.

Smith decided to go with a quicker lineup after halftime, sitting his three 7-footers and benching two perimeter starters, Patrick Sparks and Joe Crawford, for most of the second half. The pair played a combined six minutes after halftime.

In their place, Smith inserted Ramel Bradley and walk-on Ravi Moss. The move paid offensive dividends, as Moss -- playing a
career-high 24 minutes -- scored a career-high 13 points, and Bradley added 12 points.

Kentucky began extending its lead in the final minutes as the Bisons wore down. Rondo gave the Wildcats their first double-digit advantage since the first half, making two free throws with 5:34 left to put Kentucky up 54-43. Two minutes later, Moss hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 14 and allow Kentucky fans to start breathing easier.

"I thought for 35 minutes, we stayed in there and battled and battled and battled," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. "I'm not into moral victories, but I can't be prouder of a group of guys.

"We don't have to beat Kentucky to go to the NCAA Tournament," he said.

Rondo finished 7-of-10 from the field as Kentucky shot 50 percent (24-of-48). That helped offset the fact that a shorter Lipscomb team outrebounded the Wildcats 34-30, led by Shaun Durant's 12 boards. The Bisons shot 37.7 percent from the field.