By Jamie H. Vaught
Playing without star PJ Washington for the second straight game, No. 2 seed Kentucky managed to overcome a pesky Wofford team, which was seeded No. 7, with its energetic defense, defeating the Terriers 62-56 in a thrilling second-round matchup of NCAA's Midwest Region tournament Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville.
The Wildcats, who improved their record to 29-6, will play the winner of Houston-Ohio State game on Friday in Kansas City. Wofford, a small school based in Spartanburg, S.C., finished at 30-5.
Without senior guard Fletcher Magee's spectacular three-point shooting show, Wofford, which led nearly all of the first half, couldn't do enough damage to the Wildcats. UK held Magee to zero three pointers (out of 12 tries) as he only made eight points on 4-of-17 shooting. Against Seton Hall on Thursday night, he gunned in 7 three-pointers to become the all-time leader in three-pointers in NCAA Division I history.
On his team's defense on Magee, Kentucky coach John Calipari said, "What we did was we were never going to go under any screen. The bigs were going to help as long as they had to. We hoped our length would bother them.
"We also knew we were just as afraid of (Nathan) Hoover, and he goes 6 for 9, 4 for 5 from the three. We talked about one, but we said the other one is an assassin, too. He just throws darts out there.
"But it was the effort and energy, and my hope is they got a little worn down because these guys did not stop. They just chased, and they knew they couldn't let up in this game or they were going to score baskets because it's how they play."
Magee agreed Kentucky's defense was a problem.
"They played pretty good defense as far as topping me and trying to deny me the ball and not come off screens and stuff," Magee commented. "But a lot of schools have done that. A lot of teams have done that to me before, and we've found ways to get around it.
"Today I feel like we got a decent amount of quality looks, and we didn't knock them down. I think some of it definitely was their good defense, and mainly a lot of it was just me being off my shot."
Reid Travis, a 6-8 graduate transfer from Stanford, posted a double double, his third of the season, to led the Wildcats with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Ashton Hagans added 12 points along with four assists. Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro each had nine points with Jemarl Baker getting eight points.
Calipari was awfully pleased with Travis' performance.
"He trained his whole life for this," said the coach. "Before the last game, I just told him, you've been waiting for this your whole life, and yesterday (actually Thursday) he was unbelievable, had 18 points, and today he did well again, and every time we needed a basket to separate, we were throwing it to him. And just once he didn't get something. Every other one was either a basket or a pass-out.
"But let me say this, what a pleasure it's been to coach him. He is truly professional in how he deals with everything, from training to weight training to keeping his body right to being where he's supposed to on time. People that have come in my gym and watched us coach said that kid never takes his eyes off you. He is totally engaged with what you're saying....He's really put himself in a great position."
UK Athletics Photo by Chet White