No rally for Western Kentucky in 81-66 loss to UK
Western Kentucky’s wild ride finally ended. Now, there’s just
one bus trip left to make.
Freshman T.J. Price scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half
to help Western Kentucky get off to a hot start before top-seeded
Kentucky put on a staggering display of athleticism in an 81-66
victory Thursday night to end the Hilltoppers’ seven-game winning
”We were counted out long before today,” Hilltoppers coach Ray
Harper said. ”We feel like the Globetrotters. We’d play, get on
the bus and travel to the next city. But it was a great group. The
Terrence Jones had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Doron Lamb
scored 16 for Kentucky, which is expected to contend for its eighth
On a day when Syracuse nearly became the first No. 1 seed ever
to lose to a 16, the Wildcats (33-2) clearly relished their growing
role as favorites. Freshman and player of the year candidate
Anthony Davis added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for
Kentucky, which was never seriously threatened.
”I’ve got a good team and good players,” said Kentucky coach
John Calipari, who never mentioned the Orange’s struggles against
UNC-Asheville to his team. ”Let’s worry about us playing as well
as we can play, if that’s not good enough, then it’s done.”
The Hilltoppers (16-19) came in as a 26-point underdog, by far
the longest of long shots in this round, after a series of
comebacks that culminated with Tuesday night’s NCAA-record 16-point
rally in the final 5 minutes over Mississippi Valley State with
President Barack Obama in attendance.
Before that, they won their final two regular season games and
four games in four days at the Sun Belt Conference tournament after
dealing with a coaching change earlier this season when Ken
McDonald was fired after a 5-11 start for Harper.
”Sometimes we didn’t really know we were going to get through
it,” Price said. ”We came together; we became a family as a
The Wildcats quickly made sure Bradley remained the only
sub-.500 team in history to win twice in the tournament when it
accomplished the feat in 1955 in a 24-team field. Even so, Harper
and the Hilltoppers made the most of the spotlight over the last
”They went up versus the No. 1 team in the country, and they
didn’t back down a step,” Harper said. ”I’m excited about where
The Wildcats, the No. 1 overall seed playing out of the South
Regional, began overwhelming Western Kentucky late in the first
half, taking advantage of a team that acknowledged before the game
it was probably running on fumes.
That didn’t mean the Hilltoppers didn’t keep it entertaining
Kentucky raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first 3 minutes before
Western Kentucky answered with 12 straight points, capped by
Price’s deep 3-pointer over Miller.
Then, Kentucky began to pull away.
Marquis Teague, who finished with 12 points, hit a jumper, Jones
followed Teague’s miss with a follow-up slam and Lamb made a 3 from
the left corner that put Kentucky ahead 45-26.
The Hilltoppers went the final 4:33 of the first half without a
field goal, culminating with Davis blocking Teeng Akol’s 3-point
attempt just before the halftime horn.
Western Kentucky, which got 13 points apiece from freshman
George Fant and Kahlil McDonald and 12 from freshman Derrick
Gordon, went on to shoot 39.7 percent, compared to 55.6 percent by
the Wildcats with Jones and Davis scoring in bunches down low.
Western Kentucky, which once beat Kentucky in the 1971 NCAA
tournament on the way to its only Final Four appearance that was
later vacated by the NCAA because of rules violations, still took
pride in its effort against the rested and ready Wildcats.
”We kept fighting to the very end,” Fant said. ”We didn’t
give up like we haven’t all year.”