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Kentucky plays its finest game of the year to earn Sweet 16 date with Louisville
Anointed as the No. 1 team entering the season thanks to the best recruiting of all time, maybe Kentucky needed to be the underdog to unlock its potential.
The Wildcats entered a game against undefeated Wichita State with seven seed lines separating them on the bracket not to mention a 2.5-point spread. The narrative of Kentucky’s roster full of decorated one-and-done players losing to a group of under-recruited veterans seemed to be on deck for the Monday conversations.
Instead, Kentucky played its best game of the season against a Wichita State team able to answer over and over again.
Kentucky’s reward for defeating Wichita State 78-76 in a game that came down to one last missed shot as time expired by Shockers point guard Fred VanVleet is a game against the defending national champions and UK’s biggest rival, Louisville, in the Sweet 16.
In the most dramatic game of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky responded with the kind of game John Calipari has been trying to coax out of his team for months:
• Julius Randle, the most consistent freshman for Kentucky all season, plowed through Wichita State for 13 points and 10 rebounds, but more important six assists.
• James Young, who showed streaky shot selection all season, hit 3-of-5 3-pointers against Wichita State, answering Wichita State shot for shot for a sequence in the second half.
• Andrew Harrison, who never appeared ready to put his name alongside other great Calipari point guards, scored 20 points.
The true value of Wichita State’s 35-1 season will be up for debate in some circles, but on Sunday, the Shockers were prepared to face Kentucky at its best.
For one of the rare times this season, Kentucky was able to oblige.